Agency reviews Duluth businessman’s proposal for Kozy – Duluth News Tribune
DULUTH — Judge Eric Hylden was due to receive an update on Monday from lawyers who have spent nearly five years squabbling over the future of Pastoret Terrace, the historic but badly damaged downtown building better known in recent years as name of Kozy Bar and Apartments.
Instead, the litigation will remain in abeyance for at least a few more months as the parties have agreed to give city staff time to work with a developer who has expressed interest in leading a larger revitalization plan. of First Street.
Court records indicate that Duluth businessman Rod Raymond was the only party to submit a plan in response to a recent request for proposals issued by the Duluth Economic Development Authority.
Raymond first outlined his vision to the News Tribune in July, outlining 21 short-term rental units that would leverage Essentia Health’s rapidly expanding footprint and serve as a catalyst for the redevelopment of the historic arts and theater district.
Raymond said Monday that he had recently been informed by city and DEDA staff that the proposal would not be accepted “as is.” But he received an invitation to meet the staff and “discuss other options”.
“I’m just on a wait-and-see schedule,” Raymond said. “First Street needs an injection. I don’t know if it’s going to fix itself or there’s some kind of philanthropic, really high-level, Bill Gates-like person who’s going to come in and do it. We’ve got companies who are near that space and we want it tidied up. I’m looking at the big picture.
Designed by famed Duluth architect Oliver Traphagen, Pastoret Terrace was originally built in 1887 as six luxury townhouses on the corner of First Street and Second Avenue East. It was then split into around 50 smaller, affordable accommodations, and a bar was added to the front.
But the Pastoret and the adjoining Paul Robeson Ballroom have been beset by several fires since 2010, rendering it uninhabitable. The building’s former owner, Eric Ringsred, who had no fire insurance and lost property tax forfeiture, filed suit in early 2018 with a group of fellow conservatives known as Respect Starts Here in order to delay the demolition.
The back-and-forth litigation has already resulted in one trial and three appeals. And while DEDA, the current owner, was ordered to shore up the building and prevent further deterioration, the property remained largely untouched as the plaintiffs were unable to post a bond of $140,000 court-ordered.
Miles Ringsred, a lawyer for the Tories, acknowledged the latest delay will leave the building exposed to the elements of another harsh Duluth winter. But Raymond’s proposal may offer the best hope of saving the building.
“This is probably the last time we will agree to launch this box a little further down the road,” said Miles Ringsred. “Time is not in favor of preserving this property. But knowing the success Rod has had, and the vision and enthusiasm he has behind it – it seems there is a lot of interest in revitalizing this area, given the big money that’s going into the old Central (High School) building and all the amazing work that’s been done on Superior St. So I think, I hope, something can happen materialize. But, again, it cannot be indefinite.
Raymond has experience in catering
the old Carlson Bookstore and
— giving new life to historic buildings in the hospitality industry.
While the Kozy building has attracted the most attention, Raymond’s broader vision includes securing support from the city and other developers to repair the fire-damaged Pawn Duluth building across the street. First Street, demolishing a dilapidated building that once housed an antique store, finding new life for the Wabasha Bookstore, and bringing additional apartments to the neighborhood.
Likening the concept to the revitalization of the Lincoln Park Craft District, Raymond said he hoped to attract restaurants and cafes to the area, while eventually converting the Paul Robeson Ballroom into a fitness center and wedding venue. The Duluth Playhouse is already planning to move across the street to 201 E. First St.
“The easy answer, always, is to tear down old buildings,” Raymond said. “The complicated answer is to come up with really creative solutions, funding, different ways of doing it. There are probably much smarter, better developers out there who could do a much better job than me. But no one else is doing it. , so I’m here to give it a shot.”
Raymond said he couldn’t put a number on the Kozy plan, saying there were too many unknowns at this point. The roof largely collapsed and some areas of the building remained completely off-limits, even to rescuers and structural engineers.
Raymond said his plan calls for the city to keep the property, at least for now, and that financial assistance would be needed to bring in a contractor to reinforce the walls and carefully remove the debris with a crane, allowing for a better view. the condition of the foundation and other components. He said he had already brought in a mason who determined that the 135-year-old brick walls remain in good condition.
Even with historic tax credits and tax increment funding, Raymond acknowledged that the project would be expensive and might not turn a profit for 15 to 20 years. Some might consider it a Hail Mary, but Raymond considers the plan “reasonable.”
“I’m trying to do good here,” he said. “I’m not here to make a million dollars off this thing. The best idea for me is to go put on a Kwik Trip on vinyl somewhere. I’m ending my career and this is kind of the last thing I want to do. I just think it’s an idea worth at least looking at one more time. What can the smartest people on the planet do, or right here in Duluth, knowing that this building history is the latest cool thing in this neighborhood?”
An earlier pitch by Raymond to convert the Pastoret into a market-efficiency apartment building was one of three proposals rejected by DEDA in 2017. He said he had not received specific comments on his new offer, anticipating a meeting with officials after Thanksgiving.
If Raymond fails to reach an agreement with DEDA, it will likely fall to Judge Hylden to re-determine whether the building can collapse. Plaintiffs have argued that its status as a contributing structure to a historic district precludes demolition, while the city has argued that the building is a blight on the neighborhood and damaged beyond the realm of historic preservation.
A city spokeswoman declined to comment on the case or discussions with Raymond, citing ongoing litigation. But Assistant City Attorney Elizabeth Sellers Tabor asked for the delay during Monday’s scheduled court appearance.
“(DEDA) has thoroughly reviewed the single proposal it received in response and recently entered into discussions with the proponent to explore a way forward,” she wrote. “In short, material facts are always in motion.”
Hylden was scheduled to oversee a trial in January or March, having already postponed the July proceedings to allow time for DEDA to issue a new request for proposals. He did not immediately set a new trial date, but set a status conference for February 6.