For a second time since May, fire has struck the home of the former Paul Robeson Ballroom and Kozy Bar, a historic downtown Duluth building that is locked in a long-running legal stalemate over its fate.
The blaze broke out about 9:50 a.m. Sunday at the unoccupied, city-owned property at 129 E. 1st St.
When crews arrived, smoke was coming from the building's second floor and roof, said city spokeswoman Kate Van Daele.
The fire was still active late Sunday afternoon, Van Daele said. Firefighters were unable to safely enter the burning structure to determine a cause or search for anyone who might have been inside.
She said the city planned to hold a news conference on Monday.
In late April, arson was suspected in a small fire that scorched the empty 19th-century building that once housed luxury townhouses and the bar. No arrests have been announced in connection with the arson.
Most recently, the property was used as low-income apartments, which have been deemed unfit for habitation since they were damaged in a fire in 2010.
The city wants to tear down that property and the adjacent Pastoret Terrace, but a legal challenge based on historic preservation grounds has those plans on hold. Both are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In August, the state Court of Appeals halted the city's demolition plans on the Pastoret Terrace and the Kozy after finding a lower court erred in ruling "there are no prudent and feasible alternatives to the property's demolition."
City officials had been hoping to start redeveloping the properties before summer, when an event was planned 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. But the centennial event has been postponed until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.