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State agency OKs funds for Duluth youth center

An architect’s rendering of the Lutheran Social Service proposed Center for Changing Lives on the 1400 block of East Superior Street. (DSGW Architects)

A center for homeless and at-risk youths in Duluth could open its doors by early 2017 now that a major piece of the financial puzzle is in place.

“We’re ecstatic,” said Jodi Harpstead, CEO of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, who was traveling to Duluth on Thursday. “We’re planning a groundbreaking in spring (2016),”

The Minnesota Housing Finance Agency approved $4.2 million in bonding on Thursday for the project, which LSS calls the Center for Changing Lives.

The funding brings the project within $1.5 million of the $9.5 million needed to build the three-story, 26,000-square-foot building on the 1400 block of East Superior Street, Harpstead said.

She said if construction begins in spring, the project could be completed early in 2017.

Bob Sherman, capital campaign director for the nonprofit, said earlier he’s confident the rest of the private support that’s still needed can be raised quickly.

The building will house most of the agency’s Duluth youth services on the first floor, 10 affordable apartments on the second floor and 10 transitional bedrooms on the third floor.

Duluth City Councilor Jennifer Julsrud, who serves on the state board for Lutheran Social Service, said the center’s purpose is primarily to prevent youth homelessness by consolidating a wide variety of services under one roof.

“This can become a model for the state,” Julsrud said. “Lots of us talk about wanting to end homelessness, but when people get older they can become chronically homeless.”

The hope for the Center for Changing Lives is that it can change those patterns before they develop, she said.

The Duluth City Council will be asked to approve a total of $400,000 in federal grants to go toward the project, Julsrud said; she will recuse herself from those votes.

All told, the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency on Thursday announced $92.4 million in funding awards, which it said will create and preserve 1,420 affordable housing units statewide and support 2,400 jobs. That includes almost $1 million toward redevelopment of the Gateway Towers apartment building in downtown Duluth.

But another Duluth project came up empty. Pastoret LLC failed in its request for $835,000 in aid to help restore the fire-damaged Pastoret Terrace building, formerly home to the Kozy Bar, resurrecting it as a 40-studio-apartment-unit building.

Other grants awarded for Northland projects include:

  • $450,000 to One Roof Community Housing and the Duluth Housing Redevelopment Authority for acquisition, rehabilitation and resale of five houses; $760,000 toward construction of 10 new houses; and $50,000 toward owner-occupied rehabilitation of 12 houses.
  • More than $260,000 toward construction of 20 rental units on the Bois Forte Indian Reservation.
  • Deferred loans of $62,000 to the Lakes and Pines Community Action Council for owner-occupied rehabilitation of four houses in Cloquet and Moose Lake.
  • $438,000 to the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency and Three Rivers Community Action for acquisition, rehabilitation and historic preservation of 41 rental units in Virginia’s Ivy Manor Apartments.
  • $205,000 to the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency for owner-occupied rehabilitation of 10 houses in Virginia.
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