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Last Place on Earth building hits the market

A recent real estate listing offers an appealing take on a storefront property in Duluth's Old Downtown district. "Commercial building in good downtown location," the advertisement reads. "Retail space with other possibilities on upper floors." T...

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The building that housed Last Place on Earth has been listed for $169,900 with a real estate agency. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

A recent real estate listing offers an appealing take on a storefront property in Duluth's Old Downtown district.

"Commercial building in good downtown location," the advertisement reads. "Retail space with other possibilities on upper floors."

The asking price: $169,900.

Real estate agents figure it will draw some attention - as long as potential buyers can overcome the stigma attached to the building.

Once known for long lines of synthetic-drug users, the former Last Place on Earth building has officially hit the market.

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The three-story, brick building at 120 E. Superior St. was forfeited to federal authorities in 2013 after head shop owner Jim Carlson was convicted of 51 federal crimes related to the sale of synthetic drugs.

After much debate and legal maneuvering, the building went up for sale last week. Agent Tom Bridge of Port Cities Realty said he has shown the building a couple of times, as have other agents.

"I'm sure somebody will buy that building," Bridge said, "but I don't know how long it will take or what the final numbers will be - you never know that."

U.S. District Judge David Doty cleared the way for authorities to sell the property last month when he removed a notice of lis pendens from the building's title.

The notice, filed by Carlson's attorney Randall Tigue, served as a warning to potential buyers that the title is in dispute as Carlson appeals his conviction and forfeiture. However, federal prosecutors successfully argued that the document made it "difficult, if not impossible" to sell the property.

Tigue on Wednesday appealed the judge's removal of the notice. He has said he remains hopeful that Carlson will have his case overturned and regain ownership of the building.

Contacted by the News Tribune on Thursday, Tigue said he was unaware of the real estate listings.

He said he probably will create a listing to inform potential buyers about the appeal. That notice, he said, would allow Carlson to regain the title if his appeal prevails.

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"The buyer would have actual notice, and that would invalidate the title," Tigue said.

Carlson moved his business into the building in 1996 and operated there until he was shut down by authorities in July 2013.

The U.S. Marshals Service cleared out the inventory and removed the store's distinctive signs after Carlson's conviction. As significant revitalization projects have progressed around it, the LPOE storefront has sat vacant.

Local and federal authorities have made no secrets of their desire to renovate or remove the property, but have expressed concerns about its deteriorating condition.

Despite its stigma, Bridge said the building appeals because of its location on a main artery like Superior Street and for a garage with large doors off Michigan Street.

"Location is the biggest attribute by far," he said.

Bridge has worked in the past with properties owned by the federal government, including deals with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"They treat me fairly," he said. "It's not a bad situation at all for me; it's an opportunity to make some money."

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The battle over the building could ensue for some time. Carlson, who is serving a 17ยฝ-year federal prison sentence, is still in the process of appealing the case at the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A briefing schedule is ongoing, and it probably will be several months before the case is heard by the court.

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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