City Of Duluth Looking To Hire Blight Mitigation Specialist to Address Vacant Buildings

Recently, the Esmond Building which formerly housed the Seaway Hotel caught fire for the second time in two months, suspected to be caused by squatters inside.

DULUTH, Minn.- Duluth has seen more than one abandoned building catch fire this winter. Now the city is proposing a new job to reduce how long these buildings sit around as potential hazards.

The Blight Mitigation Specialist would work with the Duluth Fire Department, Office of Life Safety, and Duluth Planning and Economic Development.

The City plans to hire someone with knowledge of code enforcement for the one-year pilot program funded by a community development block grant.

They’d be tasked with identifying and tracking vacant buildings, finding and talking with property owners to comply with city code, and assisting in redevelopment.

Recently, the Esmond Building which formerly housed the Seaway Hotel caught fire for the second time in two months, suspected to be caused by squatters inside.

There’s also been similar fires at homeless encampments under I-35, and other spots in the city.

“People often cite the Seaway as a problem,” said Deputy Chief Jon Otis with the Office of Life Safety.

At the opening of the city’s first permanent Warming Center in Lincoln Park a week ago, CHUM’s Executive Director, John Cole, said “We know that there will continue to be fires in Duluth because people need to be warm. And as long as there’s a need out there we’re going to continue having those types of catastrophes.”

According to Otis, abandoned blighted properties only make the problem worse.

“The problem properties that are more aggressive that require more aggressive attention are the ones that we don’t have an owner or we don’t know who the owner is or there may be some legal entanglement that keeps the progress slowed down on those properties, those are the ones that become a challenge for us,” he said.

Officials say the new Blight Mitigation Specialist position will go in front of Duluth City Council Monday night.

Then Congress has to approve the funding order to move forward. The City hopes to post the job in the coming week, and have it filled by April.

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