For three years, the doors remained shuttered at the “Last Place on Earth” building in downtown Duluth, where the owner was arrested for selling synthetic drugs.
Now the modest three-story building is getting a face-lift and new life. It even has a new name: 120E Building, which city officials and local developer Titanium Partners rolled out in a briefing Friday morning.
Titanium said Friday it plans to spend about $1 million renovating the building to house a local brewery and taproom on the first floor and basement, a “live-action” entertainment business on the second floor, topped with a condo on the third and a rooftop deck.
The hope is to rebrand the building as a less menacing destination.
“The troubled past of this property — we wanted to give it a new identity,” said Brian Forcier, managing partner of Titanium. “That building was a key piece of what was wrong in that neighborhood.”
In 2013, Last Place owner Jim Carlson was arrested by U.S. marshals in a drug raid. Authorities seized the property, and Carlson was convicted on 51 counts and handed a 17.5-year sentence in prison for peddling synthetic drugs out of his shop. The conviction was upheld by a federal appeals court earlier this year.
Titanium bought the 12,000-square-foot property from the federal government for $70,000 last September. Construction started in April and is expected to continue through early 2017, with the new tenants trickling in as parts of the building are completed.
Duluth-based Blacklist Artisan Ales plans to take over the first floor and basement by Sept. 1. A 3,000-square-foot condo is slated to be completed next spring.
Solve Entertainment, expected to relocate to the 120E Building by Christmas, brings an “immersive” entertainment venue that’s the “first of its kind in Duluth,” said co-owner Matthew Wagner. For $20 each, players, often in groups, walk into a room to search for clues and solve puzzles with an hour on the clock. One scenario requires the players to find a deed to an old family cabin before a wrecking ball tears through the wall.
“To be able to come into that space and help transform it in ways that are theatrical and bring people together … that’s really exciting for us,” Wagner said.
The 120E Building is nestled in the Historic Arts and Theater District portion of downtown, where other developments have been on the rise. Sherman Associates of Minneapolis started renovating the historic NorShor Theater on June 21. The next day, fashion retailer Maurices celebrated the opening of its new headquarters a few blocks away. Downtown Duluth snagged more than $300 million in development in the past decade, and this latest improvement could help spur more growth, Mayor Emily Larson said.
“Anytime something really exciting like this happens, especially in our downtown, which has not seen a lot of vibrancy except for in the last few years, it’s really worth celebrating,” she said. “I think it’ll be a catalyst.”