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About the Depot Management Issue

Why is this question being asked now? Last summer APEX Strategic Resources Group of Duluth was asked to take a fresh look at the historic Depot in downtown Duluth. The 120-year-old landmark owned by St. Louis County long has been knocked for its ...

Why is this question being asked now?

Last summer APEX Strategic Resources Group of Duluth was asked to take a fresh look at the historic Depot in downtown Duluth. The 120-year-old landmark owned by St. Louis County long has been knocked for its underperformance and its inability to live up to its potential as an attraction and home to arts and history. APEX found a somewhat disorganized management system and a lack of vision for new attractions. But it also saw potential. Earlier this year, based on APEX's findings, the county asked for new proposals to manage the Depot.

Who's vying to run the Depot?

The county received two proposals to manage the Depot. One was from the AtWater Group, a Duluth-based property management company. The other was from Oneida Realty, which currently manages the Depot and its activities.

At the request of the News Tribune Opinion page, both groups provided commentaries this week that are published on today's page.

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Who should be picked?

A new vision and fresh approach with the AtWater Group is the better option, according to an advisory team of county and community officials. A new business model is needed, they said, "a restructuring that will benefit county taxpayers and visitors," in the words of county Administrator Kevin Gray. The advisory team members included County Property Management Director Tony Mancuso; County Capital Planning Manager Erik Birkeland; Deputy County Administrator of Operations and Budget Linnea Mirsch; Deputy County Administrator of Governance and Policy Gary Eckenberg; County Planning and Community Development Director Barbara Hayden; Depot Foundation Board President Bob Wahman; and Peter Miller and David Steininger of APEX Strategic Resources Group of Duluth.

Why is this important?

The county adopted the bankrupt Depot facility nearly 40 years ago, and it continues to be a burden to county taxpayers. County property taxes were used to subsidize the Depot to the tune of $200,000 last year alone. The county also footed much of the bill for a new $2.1 million roof, as the News Tribune's John Myers reported last week. The city of Duluth also annually contributes about $150,000 to the Depot.

When will a decision be made?

The St. Louis County Board is scheduled to make a management decision for the Depot at its next meeting on Tuesday.

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