Duluth looks to tear down ramp, building in hopes of redevelopment – Duluth News Tribune

A long-unused downtown parking ramp and a Lincoln Park commercial building could soon have dates with a wrecking ball.

On Wednesday night, the Duluth Economic Development Authority unanimously voted to declare the Shoppers Auto Park ramp at 18 N. Second Ave. W. “structurally substandard” and also found that it qualifies for inclusion in a tax-increment financing district. Among the findings in the resolution was a statement that DEDA “has determined that the structure should be demolished and removed from the property and the property should be redeveloped for the benefit of the city’s downtown district.”

The cashier’s booth at Shoppers Auto Park sits behind a chain link fence Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. The ramp has been closed for several years. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

The cashier’s booth at Shoppers Auto Park sits behind a chain link fence Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. The ramp has been closed for several years. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

But tearing down the old ramp won’t be cheap, according to Chris Fleege, director of Duluth’s planning and economic development division. He told commissioners the cost could range from $500,000 to $1 million. But that expense could conceivably be covered through tax-increment financing of a future project on the site.

Tax-increment financing is a form of business subsidy that captures new property taxes generated by a project and uses them to pay for certain qualified development costs for a defined period of time, before the tax revenues begin to flow in full to local government units, such as the city, county and school district.

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Fleege acknowledged the current ownership of the ramp and site is complicated and involves a trust.

“Ultimately, we’ll have to get clear title on the building and then also be able to have a development plan. But this really creates the foundational step to allow that to happen,” he said.

Fleege said the city would not be well served to wait and see the ramp further deteriorate or collapse.

Taggers have painted the Shoppers Auto Park with various forms of graffiti over the years, including this painting on the top level. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Taggers have painted the Shoppers Auto Park with various forms of graffiti over the years, including this painting on the top level. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Assistant City Attorney Bob Asleson explained, “The issue is: In order to include the structure as a substandard structure for the purpose of creating a redevelopment district, the building either has to be up when you create the district, which we’re not ready to do; or else it has to be precertified, as we are attempting to do tonight, as substandard. So, it can be later counted for the purposes of determining whether or not the property would qualify for a redevelopment district.”

The parking ramp was condemned about 1 1/2 years ago, but it fell out of use when Maurices relocated to its new downtown headquarters building several years ago, said Jason Hale, Duluth’s senior housing planner.

The upper floor of the brick portion, at left, of the building at 2101-3 W. Third St. in Duluth was removed after its roof collapsed in June 2017.  On Wednesday, the Duluth Economic Development Authority authorized the purchase and demolition of the tax-forfeited property. Andrew Krueger / File / News Tribune

The upper floor of the brick portion, at left, of the building at 2101-3 W. Third St. in Duluth was removed after its roof collapsed in June 2017. On Wednesday, the Duluth Economic Development Authority authorized the purchase and demolition of the tax-forfeited property. Andrew Krueger / File / News Tribune

DEDA also unanimously voted to authorize staff to purchase a condemned and tax-forfeited commercial building at 2101-3 W. Third St. for a little more than $600. The roof of the building collapsed in June 2017, and it has been condemned for habitation since that time.

“This was a blighted property that DEDA ultimately will use for a housing project,” Fleege said.

Brett Crecelius, an economic developer for housing, said, “It’s really been a city team effort to try to get this building down. It’s affecting neighboring buildings, and community health as a whole.”