DULUTH – Two historic downtown buildings are no longer in danger of demolition — for now.
A small group of preservationists scraped together $50,000 to post a bond Friday to protect the Pastoret Terrace and Paul Robeson Ballroom, the former home of the Kozy Bar, while litigation over the properties continues.
While they remained legally unprotected, the city was moving forward with plans to tear down the buildings, which they say draw crime and detract from Duluth's downtown.
"We live another day," said Bill Paul, the attorney representing Eric Ringsred, an emergency room doctor who is suing to salvage the buildings he once owned. "You are always fighting an uphill battle when you go against a government entity in this town."
City officials hoped to start redeveloping the properties ahead of this summer, when thousands are expected to visit Duluth to commemorate the lives of three black men 100 years after they were lynched downtown. The Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, built in their honor, sits across the street from the buildings mired in court battles.
"We are disappointed but will continue to defend the case vigorously in the Court of Appeals," Duluth Assistant City Attorney Elizabeth Sellers said in a statement.
Ringsred and a local organization called Respect Starts Here are arguing the city failed to properly consider alternatives to demolition of the historic properties.
They appealed a lower-court ruling from a judge who deemed the structures beyond saving in October. The bond posted Friday secured an injunction that precludes the city from demolishing the buildings while this case is ongoing.
In a separate lawsuit making its way through the district court, Ringsred and another former owner of the buildings are arguing that the Duluth Economic Development Authority's 2016 purchase of the properties violated a state statute. The city agency bought the buildings from St. Louis County, which acquired the properties after Ringsred lost them through tax forfeiture in 2015.
The properties, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, were built in the late 19th century and once housed luxury townhouses. More recently, they were used as low-income apartments, which have been considered unfit for habitation since they were damaged in a fire in 2010.