Duluth to combat homelessness with new housing development, student housing project delayed again
The buildings would provide multi-unit individual housing with shared common spaces.
DULUTH — The Duluth Economic Development Authority pushed back the timeline for a student housing project once again Wednesday night and also passed a resolution authorizing the acceptance of $1.6 million in city funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to construct housing for people who are currently without homes.
It is anticipated that St. Louis County will make a matching contribution to a project to address homelessness that was developed by a working group of local professionals working in a variety of fields, including social services, low-income housing, architecture and construction. The consortium refers to its project as "the new housing model of homelessness," and the group has been working to bring a development forward since 2020.
The Duluth Heights development will be built in two phases, each resulting in the construction of a two-story building with 12 small, self-contained single-occupancy apartments, complete with private bathrooms. The second phase is expected to be funded by the county simultaneously, bringing a total of 24 units to the local scene soon with the help of $3.2 million in public aid.
Additional grant funding will be sought to sustain wrap-around support services for residents of the buildings going forward, as well.
A description of the design explained that the "micro spaces" economize the cost of the project by reducing the building's footprint. Tenants will also have access to a flexible quiet room; an open gathering place with a common kitchen; an open lounge with a television; a patio; a laundry area; and a storage room. There will also be a private office for staff in each building.
One Roof Community Housing will serve as the developer and is working with the Housing and Redevelopment Authority of Duluth to purchase county property on West Palm Street and South Robin Avenue.
A "statement of purpose" section of the resolution says: "The aim was to research, rethink and redesign the homeless housing model, striving to find harmony in amount of service and support, number of occupants/density, low development costs and an operating cost model that achieves some profit while providing important services to ensure success for occupants and the community."
"This is kind of an exciting model that will provide some relief for some of the most needy people in our community. So as an economic development authority, we are facilitating this transaction just because we have the ability to do so," said Chris Fleege, director of Duluth's planning and economic development division.
"It's really a pass-through. So, DEDA's not taking any unnecessary risk with this. It's really just being the conduit to fund the project," he said.
Student housing delayed
A plan to build student housing next door to Lake Superior College is going to take still another year to materialize.
DEDA commissioners voted to amend a development agreement for what's been dubbed the LSC Flats project for the fourth time, giving the developer, Titanium Partners, until Sept. 30 to close on the property, with a new completion deadline of Dec. 31, 2024.
"We informed the developer there will not be a fifth amendment," Fleege told commissioners Wednesday.
"They fully anticipate being able to complete the transaction, but they're working out some utility extensions. They understand that DEDA wants to move this forward. So, the developer is committed to this project. It's just been a timing issue," Fleege said.
Plans call for the construction of an 87-unit, 204-bed apartment building. Originally, construction was to have begun in June 2020, and the completed structure would have been ready for occupancy by fall 2021. But the project has been repeatedly delayed, in large part due to the rising cost of materials and construction during the COVID-19 pandemic. The initial budget for the development was about $18 million.