A land swap approved by a 6-0 vote of the Duluth Economic Development Authority Wednesday night could bring greatly needed student housing to the doorstep of Lake Superior College.
The deal could lead to the opening of up to 200 units of housing by the fall of 2020 and an equal number the following year, said Daniel Fanning, Lake Superior College’s director of institutional advancement.
Fanning said the college has been working with the city, DEDA and a private developer, Brian Forcier, president of Titanium Partners LLC, to put together a project on about an eight-acre parcel of land located just south of the LSC campus.
That land currently belongs to the city, but under the terms of a pending agreement, DEDA would swap property it owns at Bayfront Festival Park for the parcel where student housing has been proposed.
DEDA originally acquired the waterfront parcels it now plans to trade away in anticipation of an outlet mall proposed by developer Sam Brown in the early 1990s, recalled Keith Hamre, Duluth’s director of planning and economic development. But those plans never materialized, and Hamre said DEDA has no need for the property now.
Fanning said Titanium’s prospective project could be a great aid to LSC.
“When people are interested in coming up to look at our college from outside the area, the number one question we hear about is housing,” he said.
“There’s such a tremendous housing need throughout the community, and the colleges certainly see no exception to that,” Fanning said.
He views addressing student housing needs as one of the keys to Duluth’s growth as a destination for people pursuing degrees in higher education.
“The good news is we’re seeing an increase in our enrollment, particularly from outside the area. The bad news is we don’t have a ton of excess housing. So, this would be a huge step in the right direction,” Fanning said.
As the proposed housing project would be a private development, Fanning encouraged the News Tribune to contact Titanium Partners for further details. However, Forcier could not be reached by phone Wednesday afternoon or evening.
Fanning predicts new student housing will be well received, especially with such convenient access to the LSC campus.
“I’m quite confident the first building will fill extremely quickly. We have good partnerships with developers throughout the community, like Campus Park and Boulder Ridge and Bluestone. Those developers are kind enough to hold spaces for us. But a lot of those fill up early in spring, and we have students who are enrolling all the way up to the first day of classes. So, we desperately need more housing, and we’re excited this is beginning to move forward,” he said.
The proposed housing development could make use of some existing LSC parking, helping to make the project possible without disturbing a public disc golf course that has been established in the area, Hamre said.
Titanium Partners has been quite active of late on the local development scene. It has proposed the construction of a 15-story downtown mixed-use apartment high-rise in the 300 block of East Superior Street and also has agreed to purchase and redevelop the Temple Opera Building next door to the NorShor Theatre.