Former St. Louis County Jail Finds New Life As Apartment Complex

DULUTH, Minn. — After nearly 10 years of vacancy the former St. Louis County Jail in Duluth is finding new life, as an apartment complex.

Not all is new as some historic elements will stay put right inside the units.

Turning a 99-cell jail into a living space is not something you see everyday, but for one project developer, Jon Commers, it’s a way to keep history alive.

“The jail property not only has amazing attributes on its own, but it also is a really key part of this Historic District. The Civic Center District that includes City Hall, the County Courthouse, and the Federal Building,” said Commers.

It is called Lejona Apartments, sitting in Downtown Duluth on West 2nd Street and Meghan Elliott and Grant Carlson are the other two developers. Gardner Builders is driving the hammer home, but they are not gutting everything, some things will remain stuck, behind bars.

Commers explained, “In some of the units also the space between the kitchen area and rest of the living space will have a segment of bars that remain. At the same time, we’ve done a lot to think about how to make these really comfortable spaces ad places that people are really going to enjoy living in. In addition to the tipping of the hat to prior use.”

Ultimately the building will hold 33 rental units, studio, one and two bedrooms priced between $800 to $1,700 a month.

“This is a way to respond to Duluth’s housing needs by really honoring something that is very much apart of Duluth’s history,” said Commers.

Other jail elements preserved include cell block gears, tile floors common areas, high ceilings, and large windows. If you’re lucky enough to score a room on floor four, you’ll get a two story loft, with a sky light feature.

Construction is near the end line, and Commers says the apartments will be move-in ready January 1. Renovating historic buildings doesn’t come cheap. A hefty amount of $11 million has been dished out. Thanks to private loans along with state and federal historic tax credits.

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