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Business North - The Daily Briefing - Business Newspaper Online
'Last Place' building may be damaged beyond repair
The Last Place on Earth structure in Downtown Duluth might never be usable due to its poor physical condition, Mayor Don Ness said Wednesday.
“We had an opportunity to walk through that building, and it is in horrible condition,” Ness told a Greater Downtown Council breakfast gathering. “The street-level retail space is in terrible condition but it’s in much better condition than the second and third floors. It’s clear that absolutely no thought or consideration was given to maintaining that building in any sort of way.”
The building was seized last year by the U.S. Marshal’s Service following the arrest of Jim Carlson, who was convicted on federal charges of selling controlled substances at his retail store.
The Marshal’s Service, Ness said, has a couple options available to dispose of the building. The agency could give it to a local unit of government that is willing to repurpose the structure to serve in a way related to why it was seized. For instance, it could be used as a drug treatment center. A problem, according to the mayor, is the high remodeling cost.
“Based on our walk-through, I think it’s very unlikely that’s something we’d want to do, or could afford to do,” Ness said. “A tree is growing out of the roof, and there’s tremendous water damage.”
The other option would be for the Marshal’s Service to sell the structure to the highest bidder at auction.
“I’m not an engineer or an architect, but having been in that space, it’s difficult to see a scenario in which that building can be saved,” he said.
It could be another year or two before a decision is made, which is why the city wanted the “blighted” Last Place on Earth Sign removed, Ness said. It was removed after the above photo was taken.
Addressing another downtown building, the mayor said he’s hopeful the Cozy Apartments structure can be remodeled, but added “it’s a last ditch effort.” The historic structure was damaged by a 2012 fire and has not been substantially repaired.
“Time is running out. This building has been neglected. As it goes through another winter, I worry about the structural integrity. They need to make this happen within the next 12 months,” he said of owner Eric Ringsred and his associate Mike Conlan, a former city planner who is helping to find ways to fund a productive new use for the Cozy.
“My understanding is that it was not insured, and that’s a real travesty,” Ness said. The best chance to re-use the Cozy would be to secure state housing rehabilitation funds, he said.
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