Seaway Hotel Owner Receives Order of Condemnation from Duluth
DULUTH-More than 70 tenants at West Duluth's Seaway Hotel will be forced to clear out of the building in less than two weeks. City officials posted an order of condemnation on Tuesday that called the structure unfit for human habitation.
Duluth Fire Chief John Strongitharm said inspector decided to close the building because of severe water damage inside. Rain, allegedly for more than a year, has poured through the historic structure's roof and worked its way down to the building's basement.
The building's owner, Rick Caya, had not yet commented about what's happening.
Many of his tenants, however, did agree to interviews. Some of them said they won't have options after their kicked out and they are expecting to spend at least some time on the streets.
Mary Edlund, who currently lives at the Seaway Hotel, said most of the tenants she knows are just trying to get by.
"There's other workers I see that get up in the morning. You know, I get up at 6:30 or so and I can see other people leaving probably to go to their jobs," Edlund said.
"Ever since they closed down the Carter and the Kozy there's very few places left," Edlund said.
This order of condemnation, however, limits option further.
Tenant Arthur Zvara, whose mother is in the hospital for expensive treatment, said he doesn't know what he'll do.
"My mom is 78 and I've got to worry about her now. What's happening with her and everything and now I come back here and I've got to worry about being out on the 27th," Zvara said.
"You'd figure they'd at least give everybody until the first when they're checks come in," Zvara said.
Fire Chief John Strongitharm has pictures of inside the three-story building. He says the forced eviction of about 70 people comes after multiple warnings for a leaky roof that became worse after last month's rainfall.
After 18 months of seeping water, mold has spread through the walls, Strongitharm said.
In addition many parts of the electrical system have been dampened along with sheet rock, Strongitharm said.
"That sheetrock provides fire protection in the corridors for people to get out in case there's a fire in there and that's all falling down. And we're concerned, at any moment, a ceiling could fall," Strongitharm said.
"And it's just to the point that, we're trying to balance that there has to be places for people to live but in the same sense it has to be safe," Strongitharm said.
But Edlund, who likes the place for its handicap-accessibility, says the city should be looking for ways to help her neighbors even though her landlord is having issues financially.
"They're not recognizing the value of low income housing. That when people can't get into those [Human Resources Administration]'s systems because maybe they have a DUI, unlawful detainer action, or they have some sort of criminal background – they can't get into HRA but this place offers and opening," Edlund said.
"A lot of people are just going to end up on the streets," Zvara added.
"Winter's coming. You know housing may take longer than two months to get into a place. The CHUM drop–in center's only got a few beds. When they're full then where is everybody going to go," Zvara said.
Many tenants say they think FEMA disaster money should be applied to restore the building. Those funds, however, have only been approved for public project at this point and it is unclear if the Seaway Hotel would be eligible for private assistance.
Executive Director of CHUM Jim Soderberg says local providers are already getting together to figure out what to do.
"If it's just a short term crisis of people are displaced for a matter of weeks, I think we can deal with that. If we lose that housing stock permanently, it's going to take two or three longer years," Soderberg said.
Providers believe the clearing of the Seaway Hotel could have a larger impact than when fire cleared Duluth's Kozy Apartments, Soderberg said.