Headshot by Hillary Ehlen
Renderings provided by Chris Hawley Architects + Construction
In fall 2018, West Acres announced that they will be opening “The District,” a carefully curated collection of sit-down restaurants, surrounded by beautiful landscaping. Who could execute this project, but Chris Hawley Architects + Construction? We met with Hawley to take a closer look at the renderings, and what we found is that you will feel right at home in “The District.”
By now, you probably know that “The District” will occupy the space where Sears once stood. Coming in at 30,000 square feet, this new development will be open to local and national tenants, including CRAVE American Kitchen & Sushi Bar. “Crave was a part of the process early on. What was interesting was we didn’t know what else was coming, but we had to plan so that we could create a home for Crave right away,” Hawley said.
What you might not know is that Hawley and his team of architects, including Jackson Strom and Wayne Schommer, have been working backwards from a concrete structure. “We are reinventing a new project around existing conditions, but, at the end of the day, we want to make it feel like something new,” he explained. “The other thing most people don’t think about is that the construction and design are happening simultaneously, so we are making decisions every week.”
However, the collaboration between Chris Hawley Architects + Construction and West Acres has been an extremely positive experience. “The West Acres group is forward-thinking and very open-minded. They’re so fun to work with. They want what’s best for the community, they want what’s best for the mall. That’s refreshing. Those are discussions that you hope to have but don’t always get to have. It’s great. All of our meetings have been at their corporate offices, and we’ve had a number of walkthroughs. Our role is to help them understand what this would look like, be like and feel like,” Hawley said.
TURNING THE MALL INSIDE OUT
Because the mall is at the intersection of two major interstates, it influences many people’s impressions of the FM area. West Acres is aware of this, and they are striving to incorporate beautifully landscaped green space that will not only enhance “The District,” but also the face of Fargo. “This is turning the mall inside-out a little bit. It’s more of an outward-focus project, rather than an inward-focus project,” Hawley said.
CREATING INTIMATE SPACES
With the impressive scale of this project, you may be wondering how West Acres and Chris Hawley Architects + Construction intend to create intimate spaces for every season. For example, garage doors can be opened during the summer. Then, fireplaces will keep everyone cozy inside during the winter. Rustic materials will also keep the space feeling intimate, rather than cold and commercial. “We are getting away from cold, commercial finishes. It’s going to have a more residential aesthetic. If you look at a lot of restaurants, that’s what they are trying to do,” Hawley explained. For example, he mentioned that weathered brick is likely to be used throughout this particular project.
While Chris Hawley Architects + Construction are responsible for overseeing the project on behalf of West Acres, future tenants will be able to make adjustments to the design based on their needs. The identity of each tenant may show up by way of building materials or through distinctive signage that goes along with their branding.
FROM THEIR WORK SPACE TO YOURS
We’re looking forward to enjoying a meal here as much as you are. Although this isn’t your typical office, here are three tips from “The District” at West Acres that you can try in your work space to stay motivated all year long:
- Invest in live plants and green space
- Install a fireplace for those cold winter months
- Work backwards from what you already have to create something new
Chris Hawley Architects + Construction
2534 South University Dr. #3, Fargo
West Acres Mall
3902 13th Ave. S, Fargo