The city of Duluth expects to open bids Friday from contractors offering to tear down the Pastoret Terrace Building — formerly home to the Kozy Bar — as well as the neighboring Paul Robeson Ballroom, both located near the corner of First Street and Second Avenue East.
On Monday, the Duluth City Council will be asked to award a bid for the work, even though legal hurdles continue to prevent city officials from proceeding with demolition.
Dr. Eric Ringsred, the former owner of the property, and a group called Respect Starts Here, had sought to preserve the historic building, but Judge Eric Hylden ruled in October that the fire-damaged structures were so badly deteriorated that renovating them was no longer a practical option.
Although unsuccessful in their suit, the plaintiffs have until Jan. 3 to appeal that District Court decision, said Assistant City Attorney Steve Hanke. And Noah Schuchman, Duluth's chief administrative officer, explained to councilors that city administration intends to move forward with demolition as soon as it is free to do so.
"What we're doing here is putting the pieces in place for the eventuality of the building coming down. There are legal pieces of that that are still in play, but we have prioritized being ready for that opportunity. So, we're working to put the pieces in place on that front," Shuchman told councilors during a Thursday evening agenda session meeting.
Schuchman said the city also has been in talks with the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office to make sure it is on board with any work before it proceeds. He said the city will be asked to take three "mitigation actions":
- Archival documentation of the buildings, which is nearly completed.
- Develop and implement a plan for interpretation, to recognize and share with the public the historic and architectural significance of the structure.
- Adopt design guidelines to continue and advance the preservation of the Duluth commercial historic district along First Street between First Avenue West and Third Avenue East in a manner consistent with the Secretary of the Interior's standards for the treatment of historic properties.
He noted that the second two obligations could still be satisfied after the buildings have been removed.
"All the actions were reviewed this week by the Historic Preservation Commission, which was supportive of them," Schuchman said.
At Large Duluth City Councilor Zack Filipovich inquired about the likely timeline for the demolition of the buildings.
If the contract is approved Monday, Schuchman said the work could conceivably occur before the council next meets Jan. 13.
Ringsred and Respect Starts Here have not yet appealed the District Court decision, but Hanke said he anticipates they still will.
"We have an agreement with the District Court and Eric Ringsred and his attorney for Respect Starts Here that we would notify them prior to actually demolishing the property and give them a chance to have a hearing on an injunction," Hanke said.
Councilor Joel Sipress asked whether any plan to redevelop the property was in the pipeline and was accelerating the timeline to tear down the buildings.
Schuchman indicated there were no redevelopment plans or proposals on the table yet.
"Any urgency around moving forward on the demolition is out of recognition of the long blight that the property has been on the city and on the neighborhood and a wish on administration's part to act on that to relieve the city of that," he said.