DULUTH – After a blitz of commercial development in recent years, Lincoln Park is on the verge of a housing boom.
Former furniture stores, an abandoned milk bottling plant and a century-old former hotel are all being eyed for redevelopment as apartments in Duluth's rising western neighborhood.
Nearly 250 units are planned in the core of the business district, which in the past several years has sprouted breweries, cideries, restaurants and shops alongside other long-standing businesses. With many of the smaller buildings filling in, developers are now gravitating toward larger projects.
"When we look at the whole area, it's surpassed any of our wildest dreams, with the mixed-use, the retail spaces that have moved in," said Chris Fleege, economic and planning director for the city of Duluth. "There's a lot of positive energy."
Stephanie LaFleur, president of the Lincoln Park Business Group, said the influx of new housing will complement the rise in storefronts in the area — 26 new businesses in the past two years, by her count.
"It's huge — now we'll have even more people in our area," LaFleur said.
The mayor has called the city's housing shortage a crisis, and a report last year said the average rent poses a "cost burden" to half of all residents.
With thoughtful planning, the Lincoln Park developments could be a step in the right direction, said Shannon Laing, a neighborhood advocate and partnership development director for the nonprofit Ecolibrium3.
"Is that housing going to be affordable for people already living in the community?" she asked. "At the same time, there's that tension of, 'We need more housing in Duluth, period.' "
What: 40 market-rate apartments on the top two floors of the former Furniture 4 Less building, with retail and commercial space on the ground level. The building will be repurposed — interior demolition has already begun, the developer says — and the $6 million project could be ready to lease by June 2021.
Where: 1826 W. Superior St.
Who: 1 LLC of Duluth
What: 30 apartment units in the Esmond Building, formerly known as the Seaway Hotel. It was until recently home to about 70 low-income residents, many of whom were moved to the new Garfield Square apartment complex several blocks east. Several units will be priced below market rates, according to the developer, and redevelopment, including a rooftop solar array, is expected to be complete by early 2021.
Where: 2001 W. Superior St.
Who: Minnesota Opportunity Zone Advisors (MN-OZA) of St. Paul.
West Superior Street Apartments
What: A four-story, 75-unit apartment complex with parking on much of the ground level will completely replace the former Robert's Home Furnishings. The project will comprise mostly studio and one-bedroom market-rate apartments, according to city planning documents.
Where: 2102 W. Superior St.
Who: Rachel Development of St. Michael, Minn.
Former dairy plant
What: 100 units of multifamily housing will replace the former Kemps/Franklin Foods dairy bottling plant that closed in 2013, LaFleur said.
Where: 1925 W. First St.
Who: Northridge Construction of Grand Forks, N.D.