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Inspired by Duluth's 'Lincoln Park love,' developer aims to restore Pastoret Terrace

Rod Raymond dares to dream of a rejuvenated East First Street, with a restored Pastoret serving as a catalyst for reinvestment in the area.

The Pastoret Terrace building, circa 1887.
The Pastoret Terrace building, circa 1887.
Contributed / Duluth Public Library
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DULUTH — Developer Rod Raymond sees past the fallen brick, plywood-covered windows and collapsed roof of the fire-damaged Pastoret Terrace building that now sits at the corner of First Street and Second Avenue East. He remains confident the historic structure can be restored to its former stately grandeur with care and determination. And Raymond may be just the man for the job.

Raymond has previously restored the Old City Hall at 132 E. Superior St. using historic tax credits to help get the project across the finish line. He reclaimed the former Carlson Bookstore at 206 E. Superior St., now home to Blacklist Brewing Co. He also redeveloped the historic Endion Station building into the Endion Inn. Besides his role as a developer, Raymond operates a couple of other businesses, namely Fitger’s Brewhouse and Burrito Union.

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Raymond noted that he also helped broker the sale of the NorShor Theatre to the city, at a time when city administration and that building’s previous owner, also Eric Ringsred, were barely on speaking terms. Today, that restored venue stands as a beacon to Duluth’s Historic Arts and Theater District — often referred to as the HART District, for short.

“I’m stepping up with my skill set to try to do something here,” said Raymond of his latest effort to save the Pastoret Terrace building from the wrecking ball.

The Duluth Economic Development Authority owns the property, which was formerly home to the Kozy Bar & Apartments, and has issued repeated requests for proposals that failed to satisfy city staff or commissioners.

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Developer Rod Raymond talks.
Rod Raymond, pictured here in The Oliver Inn inside Old City Hall downtown, hopes to restore the fire-gutted Pastoret Terrace building, which most recently housed the Kozy Bar and Apartments.
Clint Austin / 2021 file / Duluth News Tribune

An earlier pitch by Raymond to convert the Pastoret into a market-rate efficiency apartment building was one of three proposals rejected by the Duluth Economic Development Authority in 2017.

DEDA had been preparing to tear down Pastoret Terrace and the adjoining Paul Robeson Ballroom, which has been condemned for habitation since a 2010 fire. But a legal challenge mounted by a group of preservationists called Respect Starts Here, as well as the historic building’s former owner, Dr. Eric Ringsred, has blocked its demolition, at least for now.

A trial to decide the future of the building was scheduled to begin July 5, but Raymond’s renewed interest in the property caused both parties in the case to hit pause, postponing the pending legal battle for at least six months.

Person walking by the Kozy building.
A pedestrian walks by Pastoret Terrace on June 28. Duluth developer Rod Raymond hopes to renovate the building.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

While city administration is eager to hear out the developer’s latest ideas for the Pastoret, staff's willingness to entertain his offer will likely necessitate yet another broader formal request for proposals so that no single party can be seen to have received an unfair inside track in landing the chance to redevelop the property, Chris Fleege, director of Duluth’s planning and economic development division, said.

Neither Fleege nor other city officials were willing to confirm Raymond’s role as that of the as-of-yet-publicly-disclosed party that approached the city, asking for one more chance to save the building

However, Raymond confirmed he was indeed the one to seek an extension, when contacted directly by the News Tribune.

Miles Ringsred, who is both the plaintiff’s son and attorney, also acknowledged as much. Miles Ringsred said that if Raymond gets the go-ahead to redevelop and preserve the Pastoret, quite likely would resolve the case.

"I know my clients and everyone involved in this case are supportive of any potential for protecting the property," he said. "That's the linchpin of the litigation we have going right now. It's to protect, preserve and redevelop that property. So, we were very surprised by this latest development, and we're very hopeful something will come from it."

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If Raymond is allowed to preserve and restore the building, Ringsred said, "Our whole case would be moot. We'd have to figure out exactly how it would go away or when it would go away, but yes, all they want to doe is see that property saved."

When asked for city administration's thoughts on Raymond's efforts to save the Pastoret, Phil Jents, Duluth communications and policy officer, responded with a statement saying that "due to the pending RFP and ongoing litigation, the city has no comment."

The Kozy as it appeared around 1900.
An engraving of the Pastoret Terrace building shows what it looked like around 1900.
Contributed / Duluth Public Library

Raymond noted that the Pastoret Terrace, built in 1887, was designed by Oliver Traphagen, the same renowned local architect who also designed the old City Hall building, which he already owns.

"I think when there are only so many of his buildings remaining, you need to hold on to them,” he said.

“People may laugh at this, but I’m going to say it anyway: If there were only 10 da Vinci paintings and a new one was discovered that was beat up, we’ve got to save that da Vinci painting. Likewise, I think that considering Oliver Traphagen’s fame and reputation, the Pastoret deserves to get a second look or a third or even a fourth look,” Raymond said.

He proposes to redevelop the Pastoret to serve the hospitality industry.

“The idea is we would put in 21 rooms, including some really nice ones on the top, that we would offer as short-term rentals,” Raymond said, explaining that they could be rented for as much as a week at a time, providing an attractive option for visiting medical professionals or for the family members of hospitalized patients.

“Each room will have a kitchenette, and there’s nothing like that downtown — short-term rentals with actual kitchens in them. So, I think that would be a good business move,” he said.

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Raymond suggested the restoration of the Kozy could serve as a catalyst for the revitalization of the surrounding area, which has been widely plagued by recent fires and neglect.

He pictures a transformation of East First Street along the lines of the reinvestment that has occurred in Duluth’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.

People walk by the Kozy Bar in 1997.
The Kozy Bar and Apartments in 1997.
Bob King / file / Duluth News Tribune

“To me, this is one of the last parts of Duluth that really needs that kind of Lincoln Park love,” Raymond said, pointing to the area's potential, due to its close proximity to the rapidly growing Essentia medical campus and the HART District next door.

“To take out the 'H' in 'HART' is a sin,” he said, referring to the importance of preserving historic structures such as the Pastoret.

But Raymond said the revitalization of East First Street will require a greater prolonged community push.

“That’s sort of the long-term vision. It’s not just about the Pastoret, it’s about the whole neighborhood,” he said.

Raymond intends to work with other players, in hopes of bringing about broader change in the area. Among other things, Raymond aims to restore the building’s turret roof, bringing its outward face more in line with the original structure.

The insides are likely to be another story.

Repeated fires have pretty well gutted the interior of the building, and while Raymond considers that lamentable, he suggested it may free his hand a bit in designing its future interior layout.

He said the next several weeks will be busy, as he hopes to consult with both the Duluth Heritage Preservation Commission and DEDA before bringing forward a proposal in August.

Raymond freely acknowledges he will need help in the days ahead but said he’s motivated to meet the challenge.

“I’m a little guy. I’m not Alan Zeppa or a billionaire Sheraton boy. I’m none of those guys. I’m a guy who has been mildly successful in my businesses. But I’m boots-on-the-ground, and I work it and I build it. And I love Duluth. And I love the area. I don’t want controversy, I just want cool. And I think this area could be really really cool,” he said.

This story was updated at 4:45 p.m. July 5 to paraphrase a quote by Rod Raymond.  It was originally posted at 9:39 a.m. the same day.

SEE ALSO:
The city is charging owners of empty buildings higher fees in hopes of motivating them to return their properties to productive use.

Related Topics: DULUTHDEVELOPMENTTOURISM
Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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