Endion neighbors pan plan to house treatment center in mansionThe Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist want to sell the Prindle Mansion to Center City Housing, which will lease the space to the Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment. It would house 24 women in the later stages of chemical dependency treatment.
By: Mike Creger, Duluth News Tribune
Cheryl Husby fondly remembers visiting with the nuns on the hill in the Endion neighborhood, where children took music lessons at the John S. Duss Music Conservatory. The conservatory, housed in a residence built by the William and Mina Prindle family since 1985, closed in 2009.
Three years later, the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist want to sell the home to Center City Housing, which will lease the space to the Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment. It would house 24 women in the later stages of chemical dependency treatment, much like the center called Marty Mann House in the East Hillside neighborhood on 11th Avenue.
“I was super bummed out,” Husby said of learning late last month of the pending sale and plans. “We had a great time there.”
Husby isn’t alone in her trepidation with the transitional housing plan. Representatives for Center City and the treatment center called a meeting of the neighbors Thursday night and found more than 40 of them expressing their frustration.
While they didn’t seem to have a problem with the treatment center aspect, they did lament the possible loss and access to what many called a jewel in their neighborhood, the 8,000-square-foot home and the five acres it sits on.
Some said the process was going too fast and during a time when many people are on vacation. Others questioned the motives of developer Center City making other plans for the site or even a future expansion.
The transitional housing plan is allowed under the current zoning at 2211 Greysolon Road. But Center City will need a special use permit from the city. The Planning Commission will take up the issue at its meeting Tuesday at City Hall.
Rick Klun, the executive director of Center City, said there are no plans for any development of the property and even if there were, they’d have to go through the city zoning process.
At the meeting Thursday, held on the back porch of the home, neighbors heard from those who have been treated at the Marty Mann House and those who have worked closely with it, including Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon.
There have been no problems at the Marty Mann House, they said, except that its space is cramped for the 12 women who reside there.
Gary Olson, director of the Center for Drug and Alcohol Treatment, said he’s been looking for a while for a new home with ample yard space to allow patients to reflect and feel at home.
Olson said the acreage and the home will be preserved and little will be done to change its historical feel. The home is not on any historic registers.
“This is a way to preserve this spot for another 40 years,” Olson said.
The biggest change would come with a remodeled kitchen. It had been changed in the 1970s and would need updated equipment. The center would also create living space on the third floor, where there is a ballroom today.
Work with architects and inspectors is continuing, said Rick Klun, executive director at Center City. A purchase agreement with the nuns is pending with city approval and assurances from inspectors that the home could be used for a treatment center.
The News Tribune reached members of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist earlier on Thursday but they deferred comment on the Prindle home to the former director of the music conservatory, Sister Margaret Dahl. She was not available for comment before deadline.
The home was vacant for many years before the order moved its conservatory there. In 1999, the sisters began what became a $350,000 renovation, mainly fixing foundation problems with the home.
“I didn’t know this site was here,” Klun said. It had been on and off the market the past three years. He and Olson toured it and “we fell in love with it,” Klun said.
They began negotiations with the order and a deal was struck. The home has been listed for as much as $1 million but probably sold for less than that, neighbors said. Klun declined to say what the final price was.
He said the center would entertain inviting neighbors to the home if they wanted to see it in the coming years.
Husby, who lives close to the property on Jefferson Street, said the neighborhood feels blindsided by the plans. She began a petition drive to stop the home from being converted to any sort of commercial use. Neighbors are expected to have more say on the plans at the meeting Tuesday.
“I have a list of reasons,” Husby said of her objections to the treatment center plan. “But I’ll bring them up Tuesday.”
The neighbors were still in discussions with Olson and Klun as the sun set Thursday night.
Klun at times grew frustrated and neighbors overlapped each other with their urgent questions.
“I ask you all to be objective here,” Klun said.