Duluth fights homelessness with new housing development, student housing project delayed again – Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH – The Duluth Economic Development Authority delayed the student housing project schedule again Wednesday night and also passed a resolution allowing the city to accept $1.6 million in funding from the U.S. Rescue Plan to build housing for people who currently don’t have homes.

St. Louis County is expected to make a matching contribution to a project to address homelessness developed by a working group of local professionals working in a variety of fields, including social services, low-income housing, architecture and construction. The consortium refers to its project as the “New Homelessness Housing Model,” and the group has been driving development forward since 2020.

The Duluth Heights project will be built in two phases, each one leading to the construction of a two-storey building with 12 free-standing small apartments for single occupancy, complete with private bathrooms. The second phase is expected to be funded by the county simultaneously, bringing a total of 24 units to the local scene soon with the help of $3.2 million in public aid.

Additional grant funding will be sought to maintain comprehensive support services for future building residents as well.

A description of the design explained that “microspaces” save project cost by reducing the footprint of the building. Tenants will also have access to a flexible quiet room; open gathering place with communal kitchen; Open plan lounge with TV, patio, laundry area and storage room. There will also be a private office for staff in each building.

Gary Meader / The Duluth News Tribune

One Roof Community Housing will act as a developer and work with the Duluth Housing and Redevelopment Authority to purchase county property in West Palm Street and South Robin Avenue.

The “Statement of Purpose” section of the resolution says: “The goal was to research, rethink and redesign the homeless housing model, seeking consistency in the amount of service and support, population/density, and low development and operating costs. A cost model that generates some profit while providing important services. To ensure success for the residents and the community.”

“This is an exciting model that will provide some relief to some of the neediest people in our community. So as an economic development agency, we’re facilitating this deal just because we have the capacity to do so,” said Chris Flegg. Director of Planning and Economic Development at Duluth.

“It’s really a pass-through,” he said. “So DEDA is not taking any undue risk with this. It’s really just a conduit for project financing.”

A plan to build a student residence next to Lake Superior College will take another year to materialize.

DEDA commissioners have voted to amend a development agreement for what it calls the LSC Flats project for the fourth time, giving the developer, Titanium Partners, until September 30 to close the property, with a new deadline for completion of December 31, 2024.

“We have informed the developer that there will be no Fifth Amendment,” Flegg told commissioners Wednesday.

LSC Flats.jpg

Gary Meader / The Duluth News Tribune

“They are fully expecting to be able to complete the transaction, but they are working on some utility extensions. They know DEDA wants to move forward. So, the developer is committed to this project. It was just a timing issue,” Fleege said.

The plans call for the construction of 87 housing units and 204 bedrooms. Originally, construction was scheduled to begin in June 2020, and the completed structure was ready for occupancy by fall 2021. But the project has been repeatedly delayed, largely due to the high cost of materials and construction during the COVID-19 pandemic. The initial budget for the development was about $18 million.

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