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DULUTH - Two years ago on Nov. 15, a fire ripped through the Kozy Apartments and left more than 50 low–income residents without a place to live. Since then, the building has sat vacant and in need of major repairs. However, an estimated $7 million to $8 million plan is now in place to bring it back to life.
The new plans come after the building's owner, Dr. Eric Ringsred, teamed up with Mike Conlan, a former employee of the Duluth Planning Department.
"It's a 125-year-old building and it's in pretty desperate straits right now," Conlan said.
Conlan said Ringsred is a friend and neighbor who came to him for help in the renovations.
"He said he didn't have the time or the expertise to do the project and I had both the time and the expertise," Conlan said.
Right now, the two are waiting for federal approval that their proposed changes to the building will fit with its historical structure.
After that, a variety of tax credits would kick start a renovation that will require the inside to be completely gutted.
"It looks like a rabbit warren in there," Conlan said. "It doesn't function very well as far as safe housing."
Conlan said the building will likely serve as a home for many of its previous low–income residents.
However, by removing the street-level bar, adding a bathroom for each unit, and putting a separate management company in charge, he said it would finally serve as a healthy place to live.
Conlan also said the changeover is just as important for its tenants as it is for the First Street community.
"This is the downtown historic district," Conlan said. "We need to save it; it's part of our heritage."
City officials have expressed interest and approval of the proposed changes.
The pending historic an tax approvals could take several months.
Conlan said the goal is to start re–construction in a year and have the building open for tenants in two years.