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Nearly all the stores have opened at the Shops at BlueStone (at right), while Tavern on the Hill, a new restaurant and pub — is under construction (at left). (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

More businesses coming to BlueStone in Duluth

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If you like the Shops at BlueStone on Woodland Avenue in Duluth, you’ll like this.

More are coming.

Work begins this summer on two more buildings along Woodland Avenue that will house six to eight retailers, with targeted openings next spring.

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“You’ll see the same great mix we had with Phase I — restaurants, retailers, financial,” said Mark Lambert, the man behind the BlueStone Commons development. “Our idea is for the same success as with the first phase.”

Phase I, a 10,000-square-foot retail center that opened this spring across from the new pedestrian entrance to the University of Minnesota Duluth campus, houses Starbucks, Chilly Billy’s frozen yogurt, Northern Communities Credit Union, Kat’s Eyes Optical, Sport Clips and Waxing the City, a personal services salon.

The last to open, Qdoba Mexican Grill, is coming in late July in the most prominent space.

The two additional buildings  — one 5,100 square feet, the other 5,400 square feet — will  create a second hub with parking just south of the current Shops at BlueStone.

The project cost is

$3 million, with the search for tenants underway.

“We’ve had a couple of nice casual concepts approach us, but we have no signed leases yet,” Lambert said last week.

With the first shops doing well, however, he’s finding it easier to garner interest this time around.

“Every new building is causing more of a buzz for us,” he said.

That the current retailers are doing well also helps.

“Everybody’s happy,” Lambert said. “Retailers have been very happy with the early numbers they have been able to achieve with their customer base.”

Some of the retailers who have expressed interest in the next retail phase are new to Duluth, while others have stores locally but are looking to BlueStone for a second site, he said.

The Shops at BlueStone is part of BlueStone Commons, Lambert’s upscale, mixed-use development on the 22-acre former Woodland Middle School site. First came BlueStone Lofts, a sprawling five-story housing complex that opened in August with 100 furnished apartments.

 The retail component underway came next, with one or two more housing phases likely to follow.

“The whole development is beautiful,” said Chris Eng, the city’s director of business and economic development. “Mark doesn’t take shortcuts. He does a good job with his products.”

Moveover, Lambert has delivered what he’s promised.

“He’s a developer who is experienced in setting reasonable timelines for himself,” noted Keith Hamre, the city’s director of planning and construction services. “He doesn’t overpromise. He knows what he wants to accomplish and stays within his means. When he says he will complete this phase at this time and start that phase at that time, he does.”

Six houses to be razed The six houses at 902 to 918 Woodland Ave. are to be razed in July to make way for the next retail phase. They were purchased by Lambert’s Woodland Commons LLC in the last few years and leased out. Tenants must vacate the houses by the end of June when leases are up.

 Following demolition, grading and other site work will be done. Construction is to start in September, with the unfinished spaces turned over in December or January to retailers for their interior build out.

 The new stores should open in spring 2015.

The timeline is similar to last year’s construction of the first round of the Shops at BlueStone. That construction started in September, with most businesses doing their build out last winter. The stores started opening in March.

Construction of the next retail phase probably will coincide with the opening of Tavern on the Hill, a restaurant and pub being built just north of the Shops at BlueStone. New London Corp., which is behind the project, owns the area’s Black Woods restaurants. The 10,000-square-foot restaurant — which will seat 350, have a large bar and an outdoor patio — is expected to open in late summer. It’s considered Phase II of the Shops at BlueStone.

A single-family home demolished in November to make way for its construction was first offered up free to anyone who would move it off the property at their own expense. While dozens inquired about it, there were no takers. Moving the 2½-story brick structure built in 1912 proved too problematic, with the need to maneuver it down city streets with utility wires overhead.

Lambert hasn’t similarly offered up the six houses, dating back to the early 1900s, that are set to be razed.

“We haven’t done that here because the houses are in much more deteriorated condition,” Lambert said. “They have been college rentals for years. They’re not beautifully maintained like the brick house.”

But Lambert said he was willing to give them away to anyone who moves them.

“If anyone is interested, we’re happy to explore it,” he said. “But there’s such a difference in quality, we haven’t pushed it.”

Lambert, who is based in Stillwater, Minn., also is the developer behind the Summit Ridge, Boulder Ridge and Campus Park student housing complexes in Duluth.

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