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Demolition of former Morgan Park school to begin Monday

(Rendering provided by the city of Duluth)

To make way for a new housing development, demolition of the former Morgan Park Middle School is slated to begin Monday.

The Duluth Planning Commission approved a final plat for the proposed Morgan Park Estates by a 5-0 vote Tuesday night, providing developer Aaron Schweiger with the confidence to proceed with the teardown. Schweiger said lead and asbestos abatement has already been completed in the newest part of the building — the music wing — where demolition will commence. He hopes to have the entire site cleared by the end of the year.

If weather isn't too severe, Schweiger said construction could begin this winter. He aims to have the first three or four 12-plexes ready for occupancy by the fall of 2018.

When it is fully completed by late summer of 2019, Schweiger said Morgan Park Estates will boast eight matching buildings that contain a combined total of 96 rental units.

Initially, Schweiger had proposed to construct 120 units of rental housing on the redeveloped site but agreed to downsize it in the face of neighbor's concerns.

A pedestrian trail also will run through the development.

Schweiger said the building plans have been tweaked a bit in response to neighbors' wishes.

"There were some changes to the aesthetics of the buildings to try to make them conform a little more to the historic prairie style architecture that Morgan Park encompasses," he said.

The new plan added dormers, adjusted the window design, extended the eaves and altered the roof line to better match the style of surrounding homes. He also changed up the color scheme a bit by agreeing to install some stone facing on the lower level, gray siding on the upper level and black roofing.

Efforts also were made to scale back the amount of impervious surface on the site, said Chris Slater, president of development and investments for Pre/3, one of the investors in the project.

"We're about 50 percent green space across the entire site, including the ponds and everything," Slater said.

To manage runoff, the site plan includes a rain garden, a stormwater retention pond and a berm system. Original plans had called for underground storage of stormwater, complete with a treatment system.

In all, the redevelopment is expected to cost about $17.5 million.

"The project is completely privately financed. There will be no public assistance required," said Schweiger, noting that both union and non-union labor likely will be used to redevelop the former school property.

"This has been a two-year endeavor and we're ready to finally get going," Schweiger said.

Funding for the project will come from Pre/3 of Milwaukee; Augusta Housing Management Co. of Eau Claire, Wis.; Zenith Management Co. of Duluth; and some other private investors.