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Owner wants to reopen part of Duluth's Kozy soon

Work on an "emergency roof" on the burned front third of the Kozy building in downtown Duluth will commence this week to protect it from further damage from the elements while owner Eric Ringsred and city officials figure out the next course of a...

Eric Ringsred at City Hall
Eric Ringsred (right) hands documents to city of Duluth recording secretary Ellen Kreidler during a Building Appeals Board hearing Wednesday at City Hall. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Work on an "emergency roof" on the burned front third of the Kozy building in downtown Duluth will commence this week to protect it from further damage from the elements while owner Eric Ringsred and city officials figure out the next course of action.

Ringsred said Wednesday he hopes the roof, approved by the city in mid-December, will be completed in the next three weeks.

In the meantime, Ringsred is appealing the city's move to condemn the building for human habitation, a decision made shortly after a Nov. 15 fire damaged the bar and low-income apartment complex in a historic building at 109 N. Second Ave. E. Its more than 50 residents were left homeless after the fire.

Appearing Wednesday before the city's Building Appeal Board at City Hall, Ringsred presented a substantial packet of materials with affidavits from his architect, building manager, maintenance supervisor, himself and others. Most of the documents contend the extent of the fire damage is minimal, and architect William Scalzo says in writing that "no structural damage exists to the building."

Board chairman Jon Helstrom suspended the meeting with Ringsred until next month, citing the "enormous amount of documents," and saying he wanted board members to have time to review them.

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Ringsred would like to reopen a section of the building known as the Annex as soon as possible. Ringsred and Dave Mattson, his maintenance supervisor, say the eight sleeping rooms in the Annex were untouched in the fire and would be usable again with only simple plumbing repairs.

In his appeal, Ringsred is asking the city to reinstate the Kozy's certification of occupancy. He would like the city to suspend the building's rental license so repairs can be made and then he would like the city to issue the related repair permits.

After the meeting, Ringsred said he doesn't think the board will be cooperative in making the Kozy habitable again.

"That's not their milieu," he said. "It's code enforcement -- like a police force."

But, city of Duluth building official John Gulland said the city is simply trying to stay within the parameters of the city's legislative code related to buildings.

"Until we know, we can't make a decision," he said referring to a complete evaluation of the damage to the building including structural, electrical, plumbing, steam heating, gas piping and the fire alarm system.

Related Topics: FIRES
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