Dramatic changes are underway at the corner of 21st Avenue East and London Road in Duluth as a six-story, mixed-use development takes shape overlooking Lake Superior.
On the former Burger King block, just off Interstate 35, the sprawling 252,000-square-foot residential and retail complex will fill the entire 2.7-acre site when complete later this year.
As the structure rises in the 2100 block of London Road, it finally has a name - Endi - after the city’s historic Endion neighborhood that it is in.
The $36 million development by Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors will offer 143 luxury apartments, from studios to penthouses with stunning views of Lake Superior.
“It will be by far the nicest project in Duluth,” said Tom Lund, a principal partner with Harbor Bay in Minneapolis. “We have done a lot of luxury projects elsewhere in Minneapolis. My vision for Duluth was to bring a project that has extremely high-end luxury homes with amazing amenities.”
Apartments should be ready for occupancy at the end of the year, but businesses will start opening in the fall in the 13,400 square feet of retail space.
“By Oct. 1, we’ll have several retailers open,” Lund said.
Caribou Coffee will be the first of up to seven storefronts to open. At Endi, Caribou will open one of its co-branded stores, sharing space with a Bruegger’s Bagels with a large seating area and a single checkout. Besides New York-style bagels, Bruegger’s offers breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Papa Murphy’s, with its take-and-bake pizzas, also will have a storefront at Endi. Leases with two more retailers that are not food-related are being finalized. Lund declined to identify those businesses just yet but said they “will be really great for the neighborhood.”
That leaves two or three open spaces, depending on how much space the future tenants will need. Lund said he’d like to get locally owned businesses in there, including businesses that reflect the Duluth area.
He squashed rumors of a Noodles & Co. or Panera Bread opening at Endi, saying he has had no contact with them. He acknowledged that Chipotle has looked at the site, but it hasn’t pursued it since. All three restaurant chains entered the Duluth market in the last few years with locations at or near Miller Hill Mall.
Site work got underway last summer under general contractor Northridge Construction of Grand Forks, N.D., which has built other projects for Harbor Bay.
With the Burger King building already razed, four older houses along 22nd Avenue West and a small warehouse and former salvage yard on South Street were demolished.
Blasting the site’s extensive bedrock followed, a task that proved challenging and not without mishaps. In July, a blast by Super Excavators sent debris and rock chunks flying, including a rock that damaged a passing car. The Menomonee Falls, Wis., company was allowed to resume blasting but was required to use blasting mats.
The bedrock was more extensive than expected.
“It slowed things down,” Lund said. “Rock is everywhere in Duluth, and it was an immense challenge. You find it where you didn’t expect it. It was all rock.”
Much of the excavated rock will be used in a tenant deck area and for landscaping around the site.
After months of extensive foundation work, the floors are swiftly going up. With the development being built on a slope, it will have six floors on the lower lake side and three floors on the upper London Road side.
With four floors now up, and the framework of the stores taking shape along London Road, the shell of the structure should be in place next month.
“This is kind of an exciting time,” Lund said. “Construction of the residential units is moving along pretty fast. By the end of May, we’ll be putting the roof on. It’s exciting.”
Endi is Harbor Bay’s first project to be built in Duluth. The real estate development firm also had a $10 million purchase agreement for the old Duluth Central High School property with the intention of developing housing there, as well. But the company backed out of the deal in July.
With the London Road project, Lund said the company saw an opportunity to provide quality rental housing for young professionals, people working in the local health care industry and empty nesters looking to sell their large homes and move to high-end apartments with amenities.
Besides one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, Endi will have some one-bedroom units with dens and some two-level units. Its 18 penthouses will range from 1,200- to 3,500-square-feet and will, Lund said, “be fairly expensive” but popular.
The various units will feature open floor plans, 9-foot ceilings, high-quality finishes, outdoor decks and extensive windows to maximize views. Amenities include a fitness center, clubroom, technology area, book nook, indoor parking, dog-walking area, a private chef’s kitchen for entertaining, direct access to Caribou Coffee and an outdoor terrace with a bocce ball court and other activity areas.
Monthly rents will range from about $1,000 to more than $4,000 per month, Lund said. The company plans to release specific rent information next month when it opens a temporary leasing center at the site. Housed in a large trailer, the leasing center will have a kitchen similar to what the apartments will have.
A $2.8 million tax-increment financing package from the Duluth Economic Development Authority will help cover the project’s $36 million price tag. The authority also got a $250,000 state redevelopment grant that helped pay for demolition of the existing buildings on the block and the installation of public infrastructure for the development. That grant was matched by the developer.