DULUTH – The city is once again barred from tearing down the former Kozy Bar and Apartments downtown, and a court ruled Duluth must also "perform all maintenance and repairs necessary to prevent the property's further deterioration."
The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday halted the city's demolition plans on the Pastoret Terrace and Paul Robeson Ballroom, later known as the Kozy, after finding a lower court erred in ruling "there are no prudent and feasible alternatives to the property's demolition," the ruling said.
The buildings were damaged by fire in 2010 and went into tax forfeiture in 2015 before being sold to the Duluth Economic Development Authority. Proposals to redevelop the property were turned down by the authority for lack of "sufficient resources … to bring the proposed project to successful completion and operation," according to court filings.
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson said in a statement the city "remains committed to doing everything within our power to seek a resolution that improves the neighborhood and benefits the community."
"We have chosen an intentional and aggressive path to stabilize our downtown, increase safety for workers and residents and provide a neighborhood backdrop befitting the Clayton, Jackson, McGhie Memorial," which is across the street from the dilapidated structure.
The former owner of the Kozy, who did not have insurance on the building when it burned, and a preservation group have gone to great lengths to keep the Oliver Traphagen-designed structure standing. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.
The appeals court sided with Eric Ringsred and Respect Starts Here, who argued the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act holds that "economic considerations alone" can't be used to determine if there are no feasible alternatives to demolition.
Miles Ringsred, attorney for his father and the preservation group, said "the city is in a tough spot."
"They will have to try to set aside their difference to work with plaintiffs to find some way to do an adaptive reuse of that property — which is ultimately what they started this lawsuit for," Miles Ringsred said Monday. "They are hopeful that property will someday be restored to its former glory."
The case will again go before the St. Louis County District Court unless the city appeals to the state Supreme Court.
"We are reviewing the next steps in the legal process and cannot comment further at this time," said Duluth City Attorney Rebecca St. George.
Demolition is on hold pending the outcome of the case.