Downtown Duluth’s skyline will be getting a couple of splashes of modern architecture soon.
Developers are working to figure out a demolition and construction schedule for a glassy, 15-story apartment building along the city’s main downtown thoroughfare at 333 E. Superior St.
The $75 million project, which city officials said will help address a shortage of quality market-rate housing by adding 204 modern apartments, will rise near a $675 million, 14-story facility that Duluth-based Essentia Health is building. Nearby St. Luke’s Hospital also is planning nearly $300 million in longer-term construction.
They are significant changes to the downtown skyline of a once-stagnant industrial city.
“These projects that we are seeing now are once in a generation, and they’re all happening at the same time,” said Duluth Mayor Emily Larson. “It’s just tremendously exciting.”
The apartment building, dubbed the Lakeview, will sit next to the Sheraton hotel and will feature units with floor-to-ceiling glass, wood floors and “interior balconies” so residents can enjoy Lake Superior views in all kinds of weather, said Brian Forcier, managing partner of Titanium Partners in Duluth, one of three developers on the project.
Plans for the bottom floor call for 19,000 square feet of retail space, including a grocery store — an amenity that community leaders have been seeking for years. The second floor will have space for medical private-practice offices, Forcier said.
The project will replace the Voyageur Lakewalk Inn and a couple of other vacant buildings.
The developers, including Landmark Development of Madison, Wis., and Gerald Fogelson of Chicago, are taking advantage of a new federal Opportunity Zone program, which allows reinvestment of capital gains from other projects into properties in areas designated as economically distressed.
Larson said it is “the single largest private investment in downtown Duluth’s history” for a residential building and a significant outside investment. She expects more outside investors to take an interest in Duluth in the next few years.
The city also agreed to pitch in $6.2 million in tax-increment financing for the apartment building, using the increased property taxes the development will generate to pay for infrastructure over the course of 25 years.
The building does nothing to help fill a shortage of quality low-income housing in the city, though. City leaders faced criticism for giving tax incentives to benefit high-wage earners.
“We have a housing need across multiple spectrums and multiple affordability levels, there’s no question about it,” Larson said, adding that leaders can work on affordable housing while they’re also working on market-rate housing.
Across the road, Essentia Health’s new Vision Northland project will include a new St. Mary’s Medical Center plus a clinic building and outpatient surgery center.
Construction is expected to begin later this year and finish in 2022.
And at nearby St. Luke’s, officials are planning three phases of upgrades, with the most skyline-changing construction planned for about seven years out, said Vice President of Support Services Mike Boeselager.
At that time — phase three of the project — an inpatient tower would be built atop other buildings, for a total of 11 stories. Before that, projects will include relocating the emergency department and tripling its capacity, as well as expanding outpatient services.
Both medical facilities are getting state-backed bond financing for the projects.