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Demolition begins at Carter Hotel site

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An excavator operator knocks down part of the roof of a former automobile repair shop next to the Carter Hotel (right) on Tuesday morning. Demolition of the garage and hotel and removal of the rubble should be completed within 14 days. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com2 / 6
A worker spots for the excavator operator demolishing a building next to the Carter Hotel on Tuesday. The spotter is standing between the demo site and the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com3 / 6
An excavator bucket tears into the building adjacent to the Carter Hotel on Tuesday. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com4 / 6
A worker spots for the excavator operator demolishing a building next to the Carter Hotel on Tuesday. The back side of the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial is to the right and behind the spotter. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com5 / 6
Mike Friend, project manager for Rachel, uses the hood of a truck as a table to sign the notice-to-proceed paperwork to begin the demolition of the Carter Hotel on Tuesday. Fond du Lac Band Construction Projects Manager Mike Murray (center) and Jordan Ornquist, an engineer with Lake Superior Consulting, had already signed the document. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com6 / 6

Demolition of the former Carter Hotel in downtown Duluth began Tuesday as part of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa's plan to turn the site into a parking lot.

Shortly before 9 a.m., a crew from Rachel Construction of Hermantown began demolishing an adjacent garage building before moving on to the hotel itself.

The garage, with an entrance in the alley between First and Superior streets just west of the Carter, once was part of Johnson's Auto Repair, which operated a retail storefront out of the lower level of the hotel building at 17 N. Second Ave. E.

Two weeks were set aside for the demolition project, including cleanup of the site, but it could be done in less time — perhaps only a week from start to finish, Murray said.

"The buildings will be down today, I'll bet," he said.

Demolition was slated to begin on Monday, but inspection of a retaining wall along the hotel's site's north side wasn't complete, delaying the start of work, according to Mike Murray, construction project manager for the Fond du Lac Band. The retaining wall partially supports the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial on First Street.

For the public's safety and protection of the memorial, parts of it will be covered and closed to the public while the project takes place, according to a news release from the Fond du Lac Band.

The Fond du Lac Band purchased the Carter in 2010 and successfully sought to have it designated sovereign land, like the Fond Du Luth Casino, which it operates next door. At that point, the hotel buildings were placed in federal trust as a tribal property.

As part of that process, the Band was required to remove any hazardous materials found at site, such as asbestos, lead paint and mercury. That cleanup was finished about five years ago, Murray said, making this week's demolition an easier prospect.

With temperatures hovering below zero on Tuesday morning, Murray also said the cold makes the job easier. As the excavator's bucket claw knocked against the garage building's walls, the bricks readily toppled, almost like toy blocks.

"Doing it in the wintertime like we are, it's actually helpful because everything's frozen," Murray said. "(The building) doesn't want to move, and it doesn't really bother the equipment."

Murray said some materials will be salvaged or recycled, such as steel I-beams that can be resold.

The project is expected to be completed by early June.

Eventually, the parking lot could be redeveloped to accommodate the expansion of the casino and/or the construction of an attached hotel for guests.

The Carter Hotel was built in 1928 as a residential hotel, and it stayed open as such until the Fond du Lac Band closed it in 2010.

Adelie Bergstrom

Adelie has been a reporter, editor and graphic designer since 2003, joining the News Tribune in 2012. (Her name rhymes with “Natalie," but she's just "Addie" to most.) Adelie also is an artist, photographer and model. She's a girl of the North with a love for Scandinavia, the Northern Lights, quirky films and anything mid-century. Contact her in the newsroom at (218) 720-4154.

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