Eight Years, Three Lawsuits Later, Kozy Bar Building to Come Down

Pastoret and Roberson Buildings Voted to Be Demolished by City

DULUTH, Minn.- Eight years since the Kozy Bar and Apartments went up in flames.

Eight years being condemned and falling apart.

And on Wednesday night, in a unanimous vote the Duluth Economic Development Authority gave the official authorization to demolish the Pastoret and Roberson buildings, which housed the Kozy Bar.

They say, any ship to save the property has sailed. And a brighter chapter now awaits.

Officials say the buildings are beyond neglected since the second of two fires in 2010 left the building uninhabitable.

DEDA owns the property, after former Kozy owner Eric Ringsred lost it for not paying property taxes.

Now he is suing the city, saying they are the reason the buildings are falling apart.

But City Attorney Gunnar Johnson has said all disrepair falls on Ringsred.

Either way, DEDA and the city are moving ahead, and officially signing off on demolition. Which comes, of course, with mixed opinions.

“See if we can do something instead of keep filling our landfills with our historic resources,” said Mike Poupore, President of the Duluth Preservation Alliance. His time at the microphone now a last stand for his side of the battle.

But DEDA’s Heather Rand said, they did try to do something with the historic buildings.

They marketed the property for potential developers. Three proposals were submitted, but Rand said, they did not fit the long term vision of the city, especially when it comes to housing.

“This was a tough decision for Duluth Economic Development Authority Commissioners to make,” said Rand. “On the one hand we appreciate the architect of this building, Oliver Traphagen.”

Yet appreciation wasn’t enough, according to Rand. They were searching for proposals for higher-end housing, a parking lot, a grocery store–anything but more low-income housing.

“This is a part of downtown that already has a high density of extremely affordable housing. And we know that we need more of a mix.”

DEDA said they want to avoid using the property for low-income housing to avoid oversaturating that part of downtown, hurting the economy and diversity of the community.

Meanwhile, there is still a bit of hope for those who want the buildings saved.

DEDA said, should another proposal for redevelopment come up before demolition, they’re all ears. And if they like it, they will approve it.

Otherwise these buildings, born in the 19th century, are now dying in the 21st century. Their fate, slowly being sealed.

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