ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

'The other armory'

While city officials consider proposals to make over the old lakeside armory building, Duluth's other old armory, located downtown, is taking a different direction.

While city officials consider proposals to make over the old lakeside armory building, Duluth's other old armory, located downtown, is taking a different direction.
The years have been kinder to the smaller, less obtrusive 1896 structure, which recently served as the Aad Temple Shrine Building. Duluth's first armory was a product of the turn-of-century building boom, which produced many landmark structures.
But the building on East First Street, had a short life in uniform as the era of modern warfare broke out in the Balkans and the nation girded for homeland defense. The lakeside armory replaced it in 1915 to serve both Army and Navy reserve units.
About the same time this week as the city was receiving proposals hoping to save or transform the condemned lake side structure, a local group was close to buying its downtown predecessor.
On Tuesday, the Head of the Lakes Youth for Christ organization purchased the building from the Shriners.
"We have a vision for our community," said area director Mark Pavola. "We are going to turn this into a youth center with an indoor skate park, coffee house, gym and game room. We are going to turn this into a full service youth center for everyone."
The project has been in the works for about a year and a half. The group raised about $200,000 in donations and gifts, then partnered with a local bank to complete the $350,000 purchase.
Pavola said the purchase was made possible by charities and businesses who wanted it to happen. Work on remodeling the 38,000-square-foot building has begun, with a grand opening planned for mid-September.
He said the center will be mainly for middle school to high school age youths, though younger and older people will be welcome. There will be a spiritual component as well as social and recreation activities.
The groups plans to run the coffee shop, rent the facility out for special events and possible lease out some office space to help pay the overhead. The large upstairs gym has theater seating, a stage and a commercial kitchen.
Pavola said the Shriners included everything in the purchase that could help the center get started.
Mayor Gary Doty played a role in project but emphasized it is not a city facility and no city resources are involved.
"This is a faith-based project," said Doty, who serves on the organization's board. "They didn't come to the city with their hand out.
"There is a need in the community for a center like this. It will be open to everybody, a safe place for young people to be."
The mayor worked on fund-raising for the project, visiting numerous churches with Pavola for support.
The building's cavernous basement will be used for an indoor skate park. The public is invited to stop by on Tuesday, June 18, at 7 p.m. to help with planning and design.

What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.