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DEDA to take up waterfront development proposal

An aerial view of Lot D on the harbor in Duluth as seen earlier this month. (file / News Tribune)

New details about a prospective waterfront development have emerged in an option agreement that will go to a vote of the Duluth Economic Development Authority Wednesday night.

If it is approved, local developers Sandy Hoff and Alex Giuliani will have until April 30, 2018 to put together a development agreement and potentially exercise an option to purchase Lot D — a 12-acre piece of waterfront property located to the west of Bayfront Festival Park and its next-door neighbor, the recently opened Pier B Resort Hotel.

Both Hoff and Giuliani were part of the team that redeveloped the Pier B site.

The option DEDA will consider Wednesday calls for a prospective development that is expected to include:

  • An owner-operated public market hall space, complete with a splash pad/fountain;
  • A one-story retail/commercial waterfront structure deemed appropriate for the site;
  • No fewer than 80 units of market-rate housing;
  • A public/private parking structure adequate to serve the development plus the needs of the Bayfront areas;
  • Slip and seawall stabilization measures;
  • Environmental remediation of pollution on the site and in Slip No. 3.

DEDA, which owns the property, issued a formal request for proposals in April of last year, and three different would-be developers responded.

Those proposals were reviewed by a panel that included City Councilors/DEDA Commissioners Barb Russ and Zack Filipovich; Stacie Kvilvang from Ehlers Inc.; John Cushmann of Wakefield Real Estate Consultants; Duluth Seaway Port Authority Executive Director Vanta Coda; and DEDA/city staffers Keith Hamre, Jason Hale and Heather Rand. The Hoff-Giuliani team emerged as the panel's top pick.

During a press conference earlier this month, DEDA Director Rand acknowledged the former industrial site presents certain challenges, including likely areas of contamination and unstable soil.

Nevertheless, Hoff called it "another diamond in the rough," comparing it to the Pier B site with its unobstructed views of the Aerial Lift Bridge and the harbor.

The option period is designed to give Hoff and Giuliani ample opportunity to assess the site and determine what remediation would be needed to make a project feasible. They will be expected to meet certain prescribed "milestones" along the way to keep their project on track.