The downtown design review board denied a request for changes to the remodel of the Bismarck Depot.
Members of the Renaissance Zone Authority, which serves as the downtown design review board that oversees downtown building projects to ensure they meet with the area’s aesthetic goals, unanimously denied to allow new windows to be installed without the lattice work that adorns a number of the original windows, citing city ordinance.
Building owner Dale Zimmerman, who is remodeling the Depot for a brewery and event space, sought the change as replacing the windows, many of which have lattice that is falling apart and contain lead paint, is cost prohibitive, adding $125,000 to the cost of the project.
In a letter to the board, the State Historical Society of North Dakota raised concerns that the lattice on the windows is characteristic of the building and should remain in place. It also noted that changes could result in the building’s removal from the National Historic Register.
“No, no, no, a thousand times no. This would be a historical tragedy akin to the demolition of the Carnegie library,” Tom Mayer, president of the Bismarck Historical Society, wrote in a strongly worded email to city staff.
Kate Herzog of the Downtowners voiced support for the changes, saying, before implementation of the downtown design review process, maintaining size and shape of buildings’ openings was the main concern.
“This is a huge project and others hinge on it,” she said. “To not have some of these go forward because of lattice makes me sick to my stomach … We have to kind of see the forest through the trees.”
As changes have previously been made to a number of other windows and doors on the building, Zimmerman stated he felt these changes should also be allowed and that it would make the look of the building "more cohesive."
But a number of board members said they felt they were bound by an ordinance stating that the style and character of historic buildings should be maintained as much as possible.
Bruce Whittey stated the building is a “showpiece” of the community and that he felt the board had no authority beyond following the city ordinance. Joe Fink echoed those remarks, stating he wanted to see the project proceed but felt his hands were tied.
“It’s unfortunate it costs what it does,” Whittey said.
Fink stated Zimmerman could appeal the decision to the Bismarck City Commission, but Zimmerman indicated he did not think he would have any success with the board.
“I’ll see you in court,” he said as he left the meeting.