DULUTH – The city is asking a judge for permission to tear down at least part of the historic Pastoret Terrace building after it was damaged by a fire in November.
The structure, formerly home to the Kozy Bar, has been the subject of legal battles dating back to 2018, when the building's former owner and a local preservation group sued to protect it from demolition.
A structural assessment of the property, which was conducted by an engineering firm in the wake of the Nov. 1 fire, said the blaze collapsed a portion of the building's roof, destroyed sizable sections of its interior and further deteriorated the brick-and-mortar facade.
"The exterior regions should be sufficiently cordoned off to ensure the public is not within areas which could be jeopardized in the event of sudden collapse of a wall or other building element," the assessment from LHB Inc. said.
In a memorandum to St. Louis County Judge Eric Hylden filed Monday, Assistant City Attorney Betsy Sellers wrote that demolition of at least the most-damaged portion of the property is necessary "to protect the public and remove this ticking time bomb."
"With this fire, the material facts of the case have changed significantly: partial demolition is now required in the near term for public safety, and historic rehabilitation is no longer even a possibility in the long term," Sellers wrote.
But Eric Ringsred, who lost the building through tax forfeiture in 2015, is still fighting to save the 19th-century property that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Duluth Economic Development Authority (DEDA), a city agency, purchased the Pastoret Terrace property in 2016 with the hopes of knocking it down to make way for development downtown.
The original property was designed by Oliver Traphagen, a noted local architect, and once housed a ballroom and luxury townhouses. Most recently, it was used as single-room housing for low-income residents, but it was damaged by a fire in 2010 and deemed unfit for habitation ever since.
Ringsred's attorneys filed a memorandum on Monday accusing the city and DEDA of allowing the Pastoret Terrace property to further deteriorate through neglect.
The document called the latest fire "completely avoidable" and said the city and DEDA failed "to provide adequate protection and security for the building."
In August, the Minnesota Court of Appeals issued a ruling in Ringsred's favor and ordered the city to "perform all maintenance and repairs necessary to prevent the property's further deterioration." The appeals court overturned a previous ruling made by Hylden in favor of the city and DEDA, saying they did not properly consider alternatives to demolition of the historic property.
"Throughout these proceedings, Defendants have demonstrated by action and word, their absolute contempt and disdain for this Property, and the Law which accords its protection," Ringsred's attorneys wrote Monday.
A court order bars demolition of the property while litigation is ongoing. The city will ask Hylden to lift that injunction at a Jan. 4 hearing.
Ringsred's attorneys, on the other hand, are seeking an order that would require the city to perform some repairs to protect the building from further damage. They also ask that Hylden consider appointing a receiver to control and manage the property if the city does not make repairs promptly.
A city spokesperson said the cause of the November fire remains under investigation and declined to provide any more details.
Katie Galioto • 612-673-4478