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Carter Hotel to come down; Casino plans to turn building into parking lot

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa plans to raze the building and replace it with a parking lot. 2017 file / News Tribune

The former Carter Hotel building at 17 N. Second Ave. E. soon will be coming down.

The Duluth Planning Commission approved a special use permit Tuesday night, allowing the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to remove the long-shuttered building and replace it with an 18-stall surface parking lot.

Susan Ault, co-chair of the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Committee, said she supports the removal of the blighted hotel but asked for assurances that the demolition of the hotel would cause no damage to the neighboring memorial, which pays homage to three black men who were lynched on the site in 1920. She also asked the band consider retaining the north wall of the Carter to serve as a backdrop for the memorial and work with the committee to enhance the aesthetics of the site. Plans call for some landscaping but no lighting for the lot.

Mike Murray, a project manager for the Fond du Lac Band, offered assurances that the band would consult with representatives of the memorial. "The band is interested in making sure we are good neighbors," he said.

"We intend to take all the precautions we can to protect the memorial," he said.

Murray said the band would require the demolition firm it hires to provide a performance bond to cover any unanticipated damage that might occur, despite all the precautions that will be taken. He expressed confidence the hotel can be taken down without any adverse impacts to the memorial.

Murray said the band is eager to move ahead with the project as soon as possible. He explained that the Superior Street reconstruction project has put increased pressure on parking in recent months.

As for the north wall of the hotel, Murray said the band is looking at the feasibility of retaining it.

He said the hotel currently poses a risk to public health. The roof of the building has been compromised, allowing water to infiltrate the structure, and Murray said the former hotel reeks of mold even from the street.

He predicted the removal of the building could markedly improve the character of neighborhood.

Steven Robertson, a Duluth city planner, referred to the surface parking lot as a temporary structure. He explained that within the next decade, the band aims to build anew on the site.

The Fond du Lac Band purchased the Carter in 2010 and successfully sought to have it designated sovereign land, like the Fond Du Luth Casino, which it operates next door. The city of Duluth initially opposed those efforts but agreed to abandon that shortly after Mayor Emily Larson took office in 2016.

As part of an agreement struck at that time, the band pledged to provide the city with a $150,000 annual payment in lieu of taxes. Fond du Lac representatives also agreed to abide by city planning and zoning requirements, even though the band is not legally bound to do so, as a sovereign nation.

Eventually, the parking lot could be redeveloped to accommodate the expansion of the casino and/or the construction of an attached hotel for guests.