A St. Louis Park-based developer and city of Duluth staff will host a virtual public meeting April 14 to share plans for the reuse of Historic Old Central High School.
The meeting, scheduled for 5-6:30 p.m., will include a short presentation from Saturday Properties, the future developer of Historic Old Central, and its contracted architect, AWH, on plans to revitalize the building into multifamily apartments, according to a news release.
Saturday Properties has dubbed the project "Zenith DCHS" and has a website dedicated to project updates. According to the website zenithdchs.com, tenant move-in is slated for spring 2023.
The most recent plans, dated Nov. 9, 2020, show every level of the building being used, from the loading docks to the former auditorium — now the board room.
The first level of the building is expected to have an entryway from the currently unused Second Street doors with a lounge and gallery hall.
The second level shows a clubhouse and recreation room in the spaces that currently serve as the board room and gymnasium, respectively. The clubhouse design takes advantage of the high ceilings in the board room with bookshelves, tables and chairs on both levels.
Across from the board room, the developers are planning a “lookout” lounge that would allow people to sit and view Lake Superior and downtown Duluth from the second floor of the building.
The third level of the building design shows a cafe, sound booth/recording studio, a quiet study and a small group collective room. It also has a bell-tower lounge designed at the front of the building.
The developer has plans to take advantage of the outdoor space around Historic Old Central as well. The plans show multiple pet areas, a rain garden and patio seating on the west side and rooftop planter beds on parking garage roofs off Lake Avenue.
There are also plans for stone wall benches and patio seating at the Second Street entrance, potentially flanked by fire pits.
The developer even has aspirations to make the lower level a place for tenant wellness, with a gym, sauna and hot tub.
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Saturday Properties is planning for 121 apartment units in the building, with 10% rent-restricted for households at 60% of the area median income.
The building is located in an "opportunity zone" — an area identified as economically distressed where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment through the federal government.
Because Historic Old Central is on the National Register of Historic Places, any developer of the building could potentially get approved for historic tax credits to renovate the building. The federal government offers a 20% tax credit.
Saturday Properties’ website says historic tax credits will be used in the project, and if so, all plans will have to go through a rigorous review by the National Parks Service as well and the Minnesota Historic Preservation Office.
Until the district closes on the sale of the property, either the developer or the district can back out of the agreement.
The Duluth School Board approved listing Historic Old Central for sale without a list price in January 2020 to gauge interest from the private sector. The School Board entered into a purchase agreement with Saturday Properties in October 2020.
Historic Old Central opened in 1892 and was modeled after the Allegheny County Courthouse in Pittsburgh. The Richardsonian Romanesque-style school was designed by Emmet S. Palmer and Lucien P. Hall.
The building served as a regular high school until 1971 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places a year later.
This story originally listed the incorrect date of the meeting. It was updated at 2:17 p.m. April 6. The story was first posted at 6:53 p.m. April 5. The News Tribune regrets the error.