Project could unlock old St. Louis County Jail's potential
The city of Duluth is being asked to support a request for state aid to help fund the purchase of new windows for the old St. Louis County Jail. The Duluth Heritage Preservation Commission already has weighed in with its support for the project, ...
The city of Duluth is being asked to support a request for state aid to help fund the purchase of new windows for the old St. Louis County Jail.
The Duluth Heritage Preservation Commission already has weighed in with its support for the project, and Kate Van Daele, a city planner, said she hopes to have a resolution ready for city councilors to consider at their May 14 meeting.
She said the owner of the building, Grant Carlson of Blue Limit LLC, likely will seek about a $400,000 state Legacy Grant.
"Clearly there's going to be private equity, private capital coming in to match," Carlson said.
If the grant request proves successful, work on the windows could begin in the spring of 2019. Van Daele said the property probably will be developed into affordable housing. The exact amount of housing the building would offer has yet to be determined, but Heritage Preservation Commission minutes mention a potential 30 units.
"It's still very much an evolving project," said Carlson, explaining that the design remains in progress.
The 89 window openings of the former jail are filled mostly with glass blocks, but they would be replaced with a more functional and aesthetically pleasing arrangement, Van Daele said, that's historically appropriate for the style and era of the building, constructed in 1924.
"We're really excited. I think it will be a great opportunity to bring some life back into the building," she said, "and hopefully give the developer some relief on the redevelopment costs of this project."
She said that period-appropriate windows will most likely cost more than conventional modern windows.
Carlson bought the building at 521 W. Second St. in 2008 and took steps to shore up the structure, which had fallen into disrepair. With the help of a previous $250,000 Legacy Grant, he replaced the leaky roof and tuckpointed its masonry, making the building weather-tight.
The jail had sat empty since 1995, and the county contemplated tearing the building down. In 2011, the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota identified the building as one of the state's most endangered historic structures, before Carlson emerged as its savior.
At present the building has just 15 parking spots, and Van Daele said the city would like to see at least one parking spot for each unit of housing in the redeveloped building.
Carlson said there may be opportunities to partner with neighbors to solve parking challenges.
"Fortunately for Duluth, there's a lot going on downtown, which means every building and every project has parking hurdles, not just this project," he said.
But Carlson said he wouldn't be moving forward if he didn't think he could overcome that.
Van Daele noted that the building enjoys easy access to public transit and is centrally located in downtown Duluth, within walking distance of many amenities. She views the project as an opportunity to increase the city's tight supply of rental housing and increase downtown Duluth's density - both goals of Mayor Emily Larson.