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Construction is bustling at BlueStone in Duluth

Work is underway to develop the rest of BlueStone Commons in Duluth. BlueStone Flats housing complex is rising (upper right), just beyond the existing U-shaped BlueStone Lofts. Meanwhile, work has begun on the College of St. Scholastica’s new health science building (lower right). The middle area is being readied for a likely 2016 construction start of BlueStone Vue, the development’s last complex. (Bob King / / 8
An excavator prepares a site for the future construction of BlueStone’s last complex to be built in 2016-17 that could contain a food market and more housing. (Steve Kuchera / / 8
A site also is being prepared at BlueStone Commons for future construction of the development’s last building, which probably will be built in 2016-17. BlueStone Lofts (left) and BlueStone Flats, which is under construction, are in the background. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@ / 8
Construction of BlueStone Flats, a 142-unit housing complex, is underway on the northeast end of BlueStone Commons near the University of Minnesota Duluth. The Lofts, the development’s first housing complex, can be seen in the distance in this photo taken in mid-August. The Flats, which is expected to open next spring, will be the second housing complex. (Steve Kuchera / / 8
BlueStone Flats will have 142 apartments and offer more amenities than Bluestone Lofts, including balconies, an indoor swimming pool, club room and a concierge service. It will be geared to a broader mix of tenants, including professionals, seniors and families. Currently under construction on the northeast end of BlueStone Commons, it is expected to open in May. (Rendering courtesy of BlueStone Flats)5 / 8
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BlueStone Flats’ fourth floor clubroom will have a deck overlooking Lake Superior with group seating around a firepit. (Rendering courtesy of BlueStone Flats)7 / 8
The latest addition to the Shops at BlueStone recently was completed. It will house Pizza Hut Wing Street, an AT&T store and a dental office. (Steve Kuchera / / 8

Activity at BlueStone Commons is reaching a fever pitch with construction and site work underway on the undeveloped sections of the 25-acre site just east of UMD.

BlueStone Flats, the mixed-use development’s second housing complex, is rising on the northeast corner. Work on the latest addition to the Shops at BlueStone along Woodland Avenue nears completion. Construction of the College of St. Scholastica’s new Health Science Pavilion has begun on the south end. And the remaining middle section is being prepped for 2016-17 construction.

Developer Mark Lambert is taking extra pains to get that future final phase — to be called BlueStone Vue —  done correctly.

RELATED CONTENT: AT&T, dentist join BlueStone shops

He wants a 20,000- to 30,000-square-foot food marketplace in there, preferably one with organic foods. A grocery is the missing piece of BlueStone’s retail mix, especially as the number of BlueStone’s rental units swells from the current 99 to 241 when the Flats opens next spring.

“I’m being a little choosy,” Lambert said last week. “This is my last site. It may be a year or two down the road. I want to make sure we get the right retailer. I will make sure the whole development is right.”

He says he’s talking to “everybody” to make that happen, including a popular upscale specialty market chain not currently in the Northland.

What retailer goes in there will guide the scope of the building, what it looks like and whether there also will be room for housing and how much housing.

“The first focus is on finding the right retailer, then we will talk about the ability to combine housing,” he said.

The bigger the retailer, the harder it will be to get additional housing. But if it’s a smaller retailing concept, there could be room for a couple more businesses, he said.

That’s in addition to the stand-alone Tavern on the Hill and the Shops at BlueStone’s 13 businesses. Its current mix of services and restaurants include Starbucks, Qdoba Mexican Grill, Chilly Billy’s frozen yogurt, Kat’s Eyes Optical, Pearl Nails & Spa, Sports Clips Haircuts and Members Cooperative Credit Union.

When the last phase is complete, likely in late 2017, Lambert said his Stillwater, Minn.-based company will continue to own and manage BlueStone Commons.

More housing rises

BlueStone Lofts, the upscale development’s $16 million first phase completed in 2013, is entering its third year of operation with all 99 units leased. With each having one to four bedrooms and some studios, that’s hundreds of residents, many of them college students.

Meanwhile, BlueStone Flats, the development’s second housing complex, is rising just northeast of it. Like the Lofts, it will be four stories tall. But at a cost of $25 million, the Flats will be bigger with 142 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments. It will offer more amenities and be geared to a broader mix of tenants.

Professionals, seniors and adults with children and pets, as well as college students, will be welcome when it opens, likely in May 2016.

It will have 90 indoor parking spaces, a guest lounge with patios, a 6,000-square-foot second-floor terrace overlooking Lake Superior and a fourth-floor club room with outdoor seating and a firepit. Other amenities will include an indoor swimming pool, hot tub, fitness center, sauna and massage room, pet and car wash areas and a concierge service.  

The apartments will have 6-foot windows, custom wood cabinets, granite countertops and plank flooring, and most will have balconies.

“They’re beautiful units, with 9- to 10-foot-tall ceilings and high-end finishes,” Lambert said. “I would dare say this will be the nicest multifamily building in the city of Duluth.”

The complex, in a bent F shape, will have a walkway connecting it to the Lofts to allow for amenity-sharing by residents.

Its rents will be slightly higher than the Lofts, though the Lofts’ units are largely furnished, and the Flats won’t be.

Work, led by Doran Construction, got underway in April and should take about a year. Doran also built the Lofts and the Shops at BlueStone.

College presence achieved

From the beginning, Lambert wanted a college presence at BlueStone Commons.

After buying the former Woodland Middle School property from the Duluth school district in 2012 for $3 million, he had discussions with the University of Minnesota Duluth and the College of St. Scholastica with hopes of re-using the old school building.

“I’ve worked extensively with both to have them come locate at the BlueStone campus,” Lambert said.

While those discussions to reuse the building weren’t successful, and the school was torn down in early 2014, negotiations with St. Scholastica continued.

It resulted in the sale of 3.6 acres where Woodland Middle School had stood to St. Scholastica for $2.58 million in a deal finalized in early June, according to college spokesman Bob Ashenmacher.

 “The appraised value was actually higher, and Mark Lambert made a donation to the college to make up the difference,” he said.

Construction on the $17.1 million Health Science Pavilion has since gotten underway, starting with excavation and utility work. At 45,000 square feet and three stories tall, it will house the college’s new physician assistant program and its expanded occupational therapy and physical therapy programs. It will include a free clinic for the underinsured.

The new center, about a mile from the college’s main campus, is expected to open next summer. About 200 students will attend classes there, Lambert said.

“We hope to house some of the new students,” he said. “Between the Flats and Lofts, we expect a significant number will come to live with us.”