The saga of the fire-damaged Pastoret Terrace and Paul Robeson Ballroom buildings — formerly home to the Kozy Bar and Apartments — will continue, following a decision issued by the Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday morning.
The Duluth Economic Development Authority had appealed Judge Eric Hylden’s order that it take steps to stabilize and protect the buildings from further damage after yet another fire struck Nov. 1, 2020.
DEDA had sought to tear down the 134-year-old condemned Pastoret Terrace and the adjacent ballroom, but it has been blocked by the structure’s former owner, Eric Ringsred, who has marshalled a group of local preservationists calling themselves Respect Starts Here.
The Court of Appeals upheld Hylden’s decision to maintain a stay on demolition, despite DEDA’s admonitions that the historic building can no longer feasibly be restored and that the structure now poses a threat to public health and safety.
But the Court of Appeals remanded the case back to the district court, saying that Hylden had failed to address whether preservationists should be required to post a bond to potentially cover the cost of stabilizing and maintaining the buildings, while the legal battle as to their future fate continues. If DEDA ultimately prevails, that bond could be used to reimburse the authority.
Yet the panel of judges remained mum on that determination, writing: “Here, the question is not whether a particular decision regarding security was supported by the facts or the law; the district court’s silence on the issue of security precludes us from concluding that any decision was made, let alone whether it was or was not proper. Respondents essentially urge us to decide the security issue de novo. We decline to do so.”
Although Hylden didn't articulate his thinking in the order, the issue of requiring a bond was discussed at length in legal briefs, said Miles Ringsred, an attorney representing his father and fellow plaintiffs in the case. He suggested the absence of any bond requirements would seem to speak for itself.
"The biggest issue seems to be that Judge Hylden didn't specifically address the bond issue in his order," Ringsred said.
While the the appeals court didn't directly weigh in on whether a bond should be required, it did cite a Minnesota statute that says: “When the court grants temporary equitable relief, it may require the plaintiff to post a bond sufficient to indemnify the defendant for damages suffered because of the temporary relief, if permanent relief is not granted.”
The court also pointed to rules of civil procedure that state: “No … temporary injunction shall be granted except upon the giving of security by the applicant, in such sum as the court deems proper, for the payment of such costs and damages as may be incurred or suffered by any party who is found to have been wrongfully enjoined or restrained.”
City officials reported in a legal brief that the cost of bracing up the damaged and unstable building could range from about $231,000 to $346,000.
The Pastoret Terrace and Paul Robeson Ballroom have been condemned for habitation since a 2010 fire. Eric Ringsred, who was then the owner, did not have fire insurance. He later lost possession of the buildings through tax forfeiture, due to nonpayment of taxes.
In a separate decision last summer, the Minnesota Court of Appeals overturned a ruling by Hylden authorizing DEDA to proceed with demolition. The court determined that decision was flawed because it was based on economic considerations, and the three-judge panel called on DEDA to “perform all maintenance and repairs necessary to prevent the property’s further deterioration,” while Hylden reconsidered the case.
Since then, Miles Ringsred said DEDA has done little to comply with that directive to protect the building from the elements and prevent its further decline.
"It's frustrating to get a ruling that seems pretty clear, and then they just start dragging their feet," he said.
City officials declined to comment on the latest court of appeals ruling.
This story was updated at 4:53 p.m. July 26 with comments from Miles Ringsred. It was originally posted at 4:25 p.m. July 26.