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More housing coming to BlueStone site

BlueStone Commons’ second housing project — BlueStone Flats — is getting underway northeast of BlueStone Lofts, which was the first phase on the site. The development is along Woodland Avenue, east of UMD. (Rendering courtesy of Summit Management)1 / 2
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BlueStone Commons is about to get even bigger.

Work began this week on the second housing phase for the growing upscale development along Woodland Avenue, just east of the University of Minnesota Duluth.

At a cost of $25 million, BlueStone Flats will be built just northeast of the BlueStone Lofts housing complex. With 142 units and four stories tall, the Flats will be bigger than the 99-unit Lofts that opened in 2013.

Site preparation and utility work began this week. Excavation for footings and utilities will soon follow. Construction is expected to take a year, with a May 2016 targeted opening.

The Flats will be geared to a broader mix of tenants, including young professionals and seniors, than the student-focused Lofts. Its amenities will include an indoor swimming pool, fitness center, sauna and massage room, club room and nearby walking trails.

Not only will pets be allowed, but a pet bathing area and pet watch service will be available.

While the Lofts is U-shaped, the Flats will be F-shaped. A walkway will connect the two complexes to allow for amenity-sharing by residents.

Despite other housing projects planned for Duluth, BlueStone developer Mark Lambert is confident that the demand will be there for more BlueStone housing.

He’s so confident that his company, Stillwater-based Summit Management, already is working on a third housing phase  —   BlueStone Vue.

“The market is strong enough that we’re designing the next 100 units,” Lambert said. “It should come on the heels of BlueStone Flats.”

BlueStone Vue will be built south of BlueStone Lofts on part of the land where Woodland Middle School once stood. If all goes as planned, construction would get underway in late 2016 with completion about a year later.

More retail rising

Meanwhile, much is happening at the Shops at BlueStone, a series of restaurants and service-based businesses along Woodland Avenue. Its fifth building is under construction, this one at Woodland and Clover Street.

The 5,400-square-foot building will house two businesses.

One tenant was revealed Wednesday in a site plan. It identifies Pizza Hut/Wing Street as moving into the corner space. Wing Street is a new Pizza Hut concept offering chicken wings and pasta in addition to pizza. It’s the chain’s new upscale approach featuring a new menu and a fresh new look, says Lambert.

“They’re building about 10 stores throughout Minnesota, but this will be entirely new for Duluth,” he said.

The new retail building’s second space isn’t leased yet, but Lambert continues to prefer an Asian restaurant in there.

That building will be completed in late summer.

Across the parking lot, the newly built companion building houses three businesses. Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches and a Members Cooperative Credit Union opened this month. Pearl Nails & Spa is expected to open around May 1.

Duluth housing boost

While BlueStone Lofts is student-focused, BlueStone Flats will be multigenerational. The Flats’ apartments will be smaller to accommodate one or two occupants as opposed to up to four roommates at the Lofts. The Flats’ units will have balconies, 6-foot windows, plank flooring, custom wood cabinets and granite countertops.

The building design, by ESG Architects of Minneapolis, fits in with the rest of the BlueStone Commons.

“It’s a real attractive building that will compliment what we’ve done before,” Lambert said.

Rents for the Flats’ studios and its one- and two-bedroom units will be similar or slightly more than the Lofts, he said.

Doran Construction of Bloomington, Minn., which served as general contractor for the construction of the Lofts and the Shops at BlueStone, also will built the Flats.

The 242 additional apartments BlueStone will create in the next three years will help the city of Duluth in its goal of creating nearly 600 new rental units a year through 2020 for a growing professional and skilled workforce and to replace the city’s aging housing stock.

“We like working with Mark because he is a smart, tough businessman who takes the time to listen to the community,” Mayor Don Ness said. “That’s a special combination and is one of the many reasons for his success. We have already seen how Lambert developments have taking the pressure off our traditional neighborhoods. A low-income family can’t pay the same rent as four or five college students. By providing more student-focused housing, more of those single family homes can be rented to families.”

Lambert has been at the forefront of modernizing the city’s housing stock for many years, Ness noted. Before BlueStone, Lambert’s Summit Management built Summit Ridge, Boulder Ridge and Campus Park student housing complexes in Duluth, which have undergone expansions.

“Duluth is so very fortunate to have him in our city and to see his incredible vision come to fruition,” Ness said. “The impact of Mark Lambert’s investment over the past decade has gone far, far beyond the buildings he’s built. The entire housing market is healthier because of his activity in Duluth.”