The Duluth Economic Development Authority is set to consider a $135,000 construction management contract with Kraus Anderson to perform court-mandated maintenance and preservation of the Pastoret Terrace and Paul Robeson Ballroom, formerly the Kozy Bar and Apartments. The contract is on DEDA's agenda for Wednesday, Oct. 28, and if approved would go to Duluth City Council on Monday, Nov. 9.
The scope of the work to be done on the building includes securing the building by repairing or boarding up doors and windows and ensuring the roof is watertight, according to DEDA Executive Director Chris Fleege.
"I and a couple of other city staff went through the building about three weeks ago and got the chance to look at it firsthand," Fleege said. "There are some broken windows and there have been pigeons in there. We didn't definitively know if people had been in there, but there were some concerning signs as we were walking around. That's what we're looking to avoid."
The historic building was scheduled for demolition in early 2020 after a ruling from 6th Judicial District Judge Eric Hylden in October 2019 allowed DEDA to proceed. Former property owner Eric Ringsred and an organization known as Respect Starts Here challenged DEDA's actions. A three-judge panel in the Minnesota Court of Appeals later sided with Ringsred in August and ruled that DEDA must perform maintenance necessary to prevent further deterioration of the property.
This year-long ongoing maintenance contract, if approved by the DEDA board on Wednesday, with Kraus Anderson will ensure the building is secure before winter weather worsens, according to Fleege.
If approved, the contract would be paid for by funds St. Louis County allocated to DEDA as part of the purchase agreement. The county allocated $365,000 in funds to be used by the city for development purposes. Fleege said the city had spent roughly $100,000 on the property in the past and if further action needed to be taken at the site that exceeded the funds from the county, it would likely come from DEDA funds.
"It's ongoing litigation and a public process as we work through this," Fleege said. "There's no clear path just yet."
After hearing about the possible resolution, Eric Ringsred sent a statement through his lawyer, Miles Ringsred, responding positively to the news.
"Our supporters and I all want to express our gratitude to DEDA, for taking this huge positive step toward preservation of the Pastoret and Robeson Buildings," the statement read. "It is our hope that this will spur some renewed interest also from rehab developers. It is also our hope that moving forward, DEDA will also involve other 'stakeholders' such as Duluth's Heritage Preservation Commission, Duluth Preservation Alliance, and the Clayton-Jackson-McGhie Memorial Board."
Eric Ringsred has sued the city of Duluth, former city attorney Gunnar Johnson, the News Tribune and News Tribune reporter Peter Passi alleging libel and a decades-long "conspiracy" to undermine his preservation interests and damage his professional reputation.