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Minot Daily News: Mixed-use renovation planned

December 8, 2021

EPIC Companies closed Monday on the purchase of downtown Minot’s Big M building.

The company, based in Minot and West Fargo, announced Monday that it has acquired the eight-story, former Midwest Federal Bank building with plans to renovate the landmark into commercial space and apartments. In a news release, EPIC Companies called the building a focal point of downtown, due to its size, height and the prominent “M” on its roof.

“The more and more we learn about downtowns, we have realized how important it is to restore the culture and continue to breathe life into the area,” said McKenzy Braaten, vice president of communications at EPIC Companies, in the announcement. “It seems downtowns are the heart of many cities and Minot’s is no different. With the addition of High Third, The Ironhorse and many more businesses in downtown Minot, we are proud to join other developers who have invested a lot to keep the area successful.”

The main goal of Gov. Doug Burgum’s Main Street Initiative is keeping a bustling and busy downtown with prosperous businesses and accessible living, EPIC Companies states. The Main Street initiative pushes for mixed-use properties and walkable districts. The future of EPIC’s development heads toward action and entertainment, providing a better quality of life for the community, the company stated.

EPIC received the Main Street initiative award in 2019 at the Main Street Summit for its work in conjunction with the City of West Fargo in revamping its downtown area.

The Big M building recently was considered for a new city hall but has been largely vacant since 2008. The M building was last used, temporarily, by construction managers on the downtown parking ramps, which were finished in early 2016.

“It will be a tremendous boost to the community to have the Big M building revitalized and once again a productive asset for the Magic City,” Mayor Shaun Sipma said in EPIC’s release.

“The sale of the former Midwest Federal Building is a sign of confidence in Minot and downtown. The building is an iconic part of Minot’s past and our skyline and we’re excited to see plans for its redevelopment and reuse.” added Josh Wolsky, interim director of the Minot Downtown Business and Professional Association.

The Big M will have around 36 residential units and 10,000 square feet of commercial space after a renovation project valued at more than $10 million. EPIC also plans to develop a skyway connecting the building to the city parking ramp to the south, providing an enclosed walkway for residential and commercial tenants who want protected parking.

Sitting vacant over the last few years, the building has not generated a large taxable value to the community, but after removal of asbestos and other building issues, the tax value will be restored for this property, EPIC stated.

“The future is mixed-use in order to maximize space and create valuable properties that cater to active communities. We need to continue restoring properties we have as well as developing new ones,” Braaten said. “The EPIC team is proud to be a part of the Minot community with an office in town, along with many of us having ties to the community.”

Charlie Muus, vice president of operations at EPIC, is the son of Dick Muus, a former president at Midwest Federal.”

The planned architect of record on the project is Ackerman Estvold, with the construction to be completed by Construction by EPIC. EPIC Management will be managing the commercial spaces and residential units.

The building was built in the early 1960s for Minot Federal Savings and Loan, which moved in during the fall of 1963. The bank name changed to Midwest Federal Savings & Loan Association in 1974 and later to Midwest Federal Savings Bank in 1983. After entering government receivership in January 1990, the bank operated as part of Metropolitan Federal Bank and moved from Minot to Fargo in 1995, eventually merging into First Bank and later into U.S. Bank National Association.

Multiple businesses shared the location including a popular eatery called The Shirley Room and later the Embers. It included the Arnold Theater and offices for Blue Cross Blue Shield, New York Life, Girl Scouts, Ward County Abstract, Minot Center for Family Medicine and many others. The building housed telemarketing companies ProMark, which operated in the 1990s until purchased by Websmart in 2001, and Z-Tel, which operated from 2000 to 2002.

Current U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris was in the building following the 2011 flood when she was California’s Attorney General and served on a disaster relief board. Her name tag is still there today, according to EPIC Companies.

According to the new owner, the long-term plan is to keep the look of the building with black glass and to restore the look of the Big M to more closely match the large orange Big M that had been placed on top in 1971. The original Big M, created by Bacon Signs, was acquired by Chuck Kramer with I Keating Furniture World and donated to Magic City Campus in 2001 for Duane Carlson Field after the telemarketing firm Z-Tel replaced the M with a Z.

When Horizon Christian Fellowship took ownership of the building, the organization hired Bacon Signs to create another “M,” using a font as close to the original as possible, and that M remains atop the building.

HCF acquired the building in 2006 as a gift from previous owner, Manley Goldfine of Duluth, Minnesota, who had picked up the building at a government auction a number of years after the bank closed. HCF developed the eighth floor as home for a national radio network, Horizon Broadcast Network, which ceased radio operations in the spring of 2008.

Gary Copperud finalized purchase of the building from HCF in April 2016.

Other notable Minot projects that EPIC has developed include Beaver Ridge, Park South I & II and Blu on Broadway, which opened Oct. 1. In development is The Tracks.

EPIC Companies has experience developing mixed-use buildings and entertainment spaces, including The Lights in West Fargo, The Beacon in Grand Forks, the redevelopment of downtown West Fargo (Sheyenne Plaza, Pioneer Place, the POW/MIA Plaza and The Firm), Gateway by EPIC in downtown Fargo and EOLA by EPIC in south Fargo. EPIC Companies also has other projects around the state and in Minnesota.

EPIC Events, an offshoot of EPIC Companies, recently announced a partnership with the Norsk Høstfest to co-promote the 2022 event. Dates announced last month are Sept. 28 through Oct. 1, 2022.

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