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One homeowner holds up construction of new Superior Super One

Miner's Inc. is almost ready to build a big, new Super One Foods store on East Second Street in Superior. In fact, the Hermantown company hoped to have the new store in the ground more than a year ago, after 27 of 28 property owners sold homes an...

House
The house at 2218 E. Third St. is the only home left in a two-block radius in this 180 degree view from East Second Street in Superior's East End neighborhood. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Miner's Inc. is almost ready to build a big, new Super One Foods store on East Second Street in Superior.

In fact, the Hermantown company hoped to have the new store in the ground more than a year ago, after 27 of 28 property owners sold homes and a business to make way for a project that many see as a boon for Superior and the East End business district. The store would give tourists another reason to stop on the way through town, business and civic leaders say.

The problem is the single homeowner at 2218 E. Third St. who has refused to sell his home in the center of more than five acres amassed by Miner's for the project.

"For an ideal Super One store, the house would be right at our front door," said Bruce Anderson, general counsel for Miner's Inc.

That's left a $10 million to $11 million investment in the East End business district in limbo as homeowner Michael Stranko holds onto the 1979 house, which has a fair market value of $117,900 according to tax records.

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Now city officials say enough already.

Next week, city officials plan to ask the council to consider moving ahead to vacate alleys and streets for the project. Hagen said the city will have to maintain access to Stranko's property, although "he may not like it." The city's Plan Commission could consider the matter during its Sept. 19 meeting.

Superior Mayor Bruce Hagen said the city hasn't ruled out using eminent domain to acquire the property after numerous offers -- including "significant dollars" above the value of the house -- have been rejected.

In addition to offers made by the company, the city is offering $25,000 for relocation assistance -- an offer that will be pulled off the table at the end of business Sept. 7, Hagen said. The city even has offered land to move the house to another area of East End, where Stranko grew up, lived and worked, Hagen said.

"The bottom line is we're going to do all we can to make this happen," Hagen said. "We're leaving all our options open and we have legal counsel at several levels looking at those possibilities. He has been treated extremely fair."

Company officials say they would like to resolve the issue amicably.

"We've been part of this community for over 30 years, and we've reinvested in it a number of times," said Greg Borash, chief financial officer for Miner's. "We've tried to be real honorable and respectful with how we're dealing with this. We don't think it's been respectful back."

Borash said after three years, the company still doesn't know what Stranko's concerns are or how to put together an acceptable offer.

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Stranko, a former Superior firefighter, declined to comment on his decision to retain ownership of his home.

"We're to the point of being disappointed to being outraged," Hagen said. "The community is disappointed."

Esther Schaefer, owner of the East End Cafรฉ, said she's seen a decline in business with the loss of homes and a motel in the neighborhood, but she remains hopeful the grocery store will be built.

"People would be coming in, instead of going to Duluth or downtown," she said. "They would stay here because it would be a bigger store."

Roger Lundquist, owner of East End Hardware Hank, said drawing those additional customers into the business district would present an opportunity for growth for surrounding businesses.

"It's nothing but positive," Lundquist said of the proposed development. "When that much traffic comes into the area, we can certainly see growth in this business district."

Sara Haugen, owner of Pudge's, said with the amount of money the company is offering to pay for the property, Stranko should just "take one for the team and leave."

"Super One would do so much for this area and he's just dragging it down, and it's wrong," Haugen said.

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Hagen sees the proposed store as a great opportunity for the city, which is why he's had a number of conversations with Stranko in an effort to encourage the sale to Miner's, but none have gone beyond "pleasantries."

"I've known Mike my whole life, and I feel the community has been exceptionally good to him -- 30-year career in the fire department," Hagen said. "Now it's time for him to step up. We're going to do all we can to make this happen."

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