Judge orders Duluth to undertake work on Kozy building
The first of several possible phases involves erecting exterior support for the facade, which is said to be at risk of "sudden collapse."
The Duluth Economic Development Authority must temporarily stabilize the facade of the Pastoret Terrace building as litigation continues over the future of the fire-ravaged structure, a judge ruled.
The exterior bracing, designed to prevent an outward collapse, is expected to come with a price tag of approximately $88,225, according to an estimate recently provided to the court.
Judge Eric Hylden ordered the work Wednesday, delaying the city's request for renewed permission to tear down the building and ordering the first in a series of steps sought by former owner Eric Ringsred and a group of fellow preservationists.
"The court believes that this sort of phased approach is the most sensible and allows the court and the parties to collect all necessary information to determine whether advancing to the next phase is prudent," Hylden wrote.
DEDA, which acquired the building after Ringsred lost it to tax forfeiture, has sought to demolish it, and Hylden agreed in October 2019. But the Minnesota Court of Appeals last August revived Ringsred's lawsuit, saying the judge must consider factors other than economics in determining whether the building is salvageable.
City attorneys contended that the most recent fire changed the situation, putting any hopes of historic preservation "out of reach." But Ringsred and a group known as Respect Starts Here have asked the judge to order a series of emergency repairs to prevent further deterioration, as mandated by the appeals court.
Duluth engineering firm LHB, Inc., which conducted a structural analysis on behalf of DEDA, reported that at least two of the six original townhouse units in the building were significantly damaged. The report also noted that significant portions of the roof had collapsed and that the First Street facade is susceptible to "sudden collapse."
Miles Ringsred, an attorney for the plaintiffs, suggested the phased approach in a letter to the court last week, describing it as "the most cost-effective and efficacious path to restoring the structural integrity and preventing the Pastoret's further deterioration."
The first step, approved by Hylden, involves using lifts and a boom truck to reach inside the walls of the structure and affix a wood bracing system around the exterior. An estimate from Kraus-Anderson Construction Co. said that would take approximately a week and a half to complete.
The city had requested that any maintenance order come with a provision that the preservationists post a monetary bond to cover the expenses should DEDA later prevail in the lawsuit and receive permission to demolish the building. But Hylden's order does not contain any such language.
The judge also instructed the city to secure detailed cost estimates for a possible second phase, which would consist of removing debris from the roof and, possibly, the lower levels, which have remained largely inaccessible to engineers. A third phase could involve restoring floor and roof joists to more thoroughly stabilize the structure.
Hylden further instructed the city to provide regular consultation and access to another engineer, James Berry, who has submitted affidavits in support of the preservation effort, along with another yet-unnamed representative for the group hoping to save the building.
Miles Ringsred called the order a "step in the right direction," thanking the judge for adopting his phased approach.
The exterior bracing will help protect the public from a potential collapse, Ringsred noted, and the future clearing of debris would allow engineers to get a better sense of interior needs. He said he hoped to work with the city on the next steps and avoid a situation where the court would be called upon to micromanage the process.
"It seems like everyone pretty much agrees on the scope of the work and what needs to be done," he said. "The judge seemed to think it was reasonable as well."
City officials declined to comment on the order.