The Pastoret Terrace and neighboring Paul Robeson Ballroom building - formerly home to the Kozy Bar and apartments - will be spared the wrecking ball. At least for now.
State District Court Judge Eric Hylden granted a request for temporary injunction Monday morning, blocking the city of Duluth from proceeding with its plans to demolish the structures, as a suit seeking to preserve the buildings awaits consideration.
The case pits the building's former owner, Dr. Eric Ringsred, and a local organization called Respect Starts Here against the city of Duluth and the Duluth Economic Development Authority.
The Pastoret Terrace, designed by Oliver Traphagen, a prominent local architect, was built in 1887, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. However, it and the attached ballroom have been condemned for habitation, following a couple of fires. Ringsred lost ownership of the building at 129 E. First St. to St. Louis County and then the Duluth Economic Development Authority through tax forfeiture after falling behind on payments.
Representing the plaintiff in the case is his 32-year-old son, Attorney Miles Ringsred, a 2017 graduate of Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Ore., who was licensed to practice law in Minnesota earlier this year.
The elder Ringsred has a lengthy track record of litigating against the city's efforts to tear down old buildings to make room for new ones. That history dates back two decades, when he unsuccessfully fought to stop the construction of the Technology Village building at the corner of Lake Avenue and Superior Street.
But this is the first time he has been joined by his son, Miles Ringsred, who said he has been encouraged by Judge Hylden's handling of the matter thus far.
"He was asking all the right questions right off the bat," Ringsred said.
Although the temporary injunction bars the city from beginning demolition or altering the building in any way that could further impair it, City Attorney Gunnar Johnson said: "We can continue to move forward with putting together plans for pre-demolition activities, such as soliciting bids, obtaining permits and that type of thing." The city also will need to consult with the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office prior to taking down the building.
DEDA issued a request for redevelopment proposals for the property in 2016, but just three developers responded, and none of the proposals were deemed viable or acceptable by a review panel. Meanwhile the condition of the fire-damaged buildings continued to deteriorate, according to DEDA.
In June, DEDA authorized the completion of an environmental assessment worksheet to explore the possibility of tearing down the Pastoret Terrace properties. Upon completion of that assessment, DEDA members voted to authorize city staff to proceed with obtaining the necessary permits to begin demolition.
Ringsred contends the process was flawed and slanted against preserving the historic building.
Johnson disagreed, saying: "They say we're violating the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act, and we say we have complied with the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act, namely by going through the EAW process.
In his order, Hylden requires the plaintiffs to post a $50,000 bond by Friday.
"We think that was important, because there is a cost to the city and the public if this matter gets locked up in an injunction by Dr. Ringsred, and they should bear part of the risk for those costs that might increase for the city as we go forward," Johnson said.
But Miles Ringsred said the bond requirement creates a financial hardship.
"We think it's sort of an exorbitant amount, especially given the fact that the city was never able to support that number with anything," he said, adding that the figure seemed to come "out of thin air."
Although he disagrees with the bond requirement, Ringsred said he and his client are actively exploring multiple avenues to fulfill that financial obligation, with an eye toward seeking to have it reduced later.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Nov. 15, and attorneys for both parties say they plan to file competing motions for summary judgment at that time.