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‘M’ is for moving: New sign is placed on downtown landmark

A crew secures a strap around the new “M” sign as part of preparations for lifting it to the roof of the downtown Big M building.

Downtown Minot saw a change in its landscape Friday when the rooftop “M” on the towering Big M Building came down and a new one took its place.

When EPIC Companies announced the purchase of the building two years ago, it indicated it planned to install a new “M” that more closely matches the original orange letter. Knockout Design created the new 12-feet high by 13-feet wide sign, which weighs around 1,500 pounds, or about 400 pounds less than the sign it replaces.

EPIC’s Minot construction director, Bruce Langseth, said the company studied historical pictures to get the design of the sign as close to the original as possible. Created by Bacon Signs, that original sign had been installed in 1971. It was acquired by Chuck Kramer with I Keating Furniture World and donated to Magic City Campus in 2001 after the telemarketing firm Z-Tel replaced the “M” with a “Z.” Now painted maroon, the “M” stands at Duane Carlson Field.

When Horizon Christian Fellowship took ownership of the downtown building in 2006, the organization hired Bacon Signs to create another “M.” That blue and white “M” was on the move Friday, headed to Minot North High School as a gift to Minot Public Schools.

“I think it’s incredible that they thought of us in this process,” Minot Schools Superintendent Mark Vollmer said. “Our new football stadium will have the most recent sign that came off the top of that building. We are very thrilled about that and thank them for their generosity.”

The “M” that has graced the top of the Big M building since 2006 comes down with the help of a crane Friday.

The crane that helped move the “M” signs Friday won’t be the last one seen on the project. Langseth said it will be needed at times for roof access to bring in construction equipment and supplies over the course of the year. EPIC aims to complete renovation of the Big M building by the end of 2024.

“We’ve got a lot done,” Langseth said. “Asbestos abatement was a big portion of it. We finished that in the spring.”

Demolition on the interior has largely finished and reconstruction has begun.

“We’re doing the vestibule steel studs right now and then we’ll be installing the steel studs in the rest of the building, probably starting from the top, coming down,” Langseth said. The public should notice visible progress this summer when EPIC takes on the four-month project of installing new glass on the building.

Langseth said plans for the building have been adjusted to include more commercial units and fewer residential apartments in response to the type of demand seen for space in the building.The first four floors, and possibly five, will be commercial, he said.

The “M” removed from the roof of the Big M building Friday is loaded onto a trailer to be moved. The sign has been donated to Minot Public Schools for display at the new Minot North High School that opens in the fall.

“The intent is at least we’re going to have the top two floors as apartments still, and we may even add another floor in,” he said. Currently, plans call for 16 apartments.

According to a history previously published by The Minot Daily News, 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 have 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, and Z-Tel, which operated from 2000 to 2002.

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