A new housing subdivision is expected to bring 11 new single-family homes to Duluth's Piedmont Heights neighborhood.
Earlier this week, the St. Louis County Board of Commissioners agreed to transfer ownership of a tax-forfeited piece of property to the Duluth Housing and Redevelopment Authority, which in turn plans to sell it — basically at cost, for just over $17,800 — to the would-be developer, HNH LLC.
This landlocked parcel southeast of the intersection of Anderson Road and Decker Road will be combined with several other neighboring tracts HNH already owns to accommodate the proposed development.
"This is a single lot that's part of a bigger replat, where they're trying to do a small housing subdivision," said Adam Fulton, deputy director of Duluth's planning and economic development division. "It's a private-sector proposal. So, it's not as though we have some kind of funding in this or anything. But we're always supportive of new housing developments in the community."
Fulton said the city and HRA understood the critical nature of the developer being able to acquire the tax-forfeited property.
"They weren't able to proceed with the project without this parcel. So, that's why it was important for us to help them make this happen," he said.
The HRA will basically serve as a conduit between the County Board and the developer to facilitate the purchase of the land, explained Jill Keppers, the authority's executive director.
"The developer is paying for the full value of the lot. He is not receiving a reduced rate, because it is not an 'affordable' project," she said, noting that the homes will be sold at market rate rather than reduced or subsidized prices.
"Because we're a city of the first class, the HRA is allowed to be involved in housing for all income levels. Generally, the market can take care of itself for market-rate housing. So, we become more involved with 'affordable' projects. But in cases like this, where it really is just a matter of ensuring that a developer has site control to proceed with a project, then the city asks us to act as a conduit for that particular type of purchase or conveyance," Keppers said.
Utilities for the development will be run from Denim Street — a cul-de-sac off of Chambersburg Avenue.
"We support single-family home ownership, and it's always exciting to see a developer want to take that on, because that's not always the easiest thing to do: to build single-family homes and try to sell them one at a time," Keppers said.
Keppers noted that the developer had made a previous attempt to bring housing to the same area in 2018, but it didn't pan out.
"So, I know that Mr. (Lon) Hovland from HNH is chomping at the bit to get this going," she said.
Hovland, CEO of HNH LLC, could not be reached for comment Wednesday or Thursday, despite messages left at his Hermantown office by the News Tribune.
Fulton said the proposed subdivision is consistent with the city's land-use plan, which calls for low-density single-family residential development in the area.
In addition to HNH's Piedmont project, another 18-home development has been proposed, overlooking Hartley Park from the north, potentially bringing a combined 29 new homes onto the market in the near future. Fulton said that would be a significant contribution to the city's housing inventory.
Fulton noted that 56 new single-family homes were built in Duluth last year — a number he characterized as particularly strong, historically speaking.
"We've been trying to create new housing opportunities with all different types of housing. So, this fills a niche for some single-family homes, but we recognize the need is broad. That's why you've seen proposals for multi-unit townhomes, some side-by-side construction, some multi-family development, some taller condo-style buildings and things like that," Fulton said. "We have a need for housing across the spectrum."