Updated: 01/03/2014 6:19 PM
Created: 01/03/2014 5:25 PM WDIO.com
By: Maarja Anderson
The Housing and Redevelopment Authority of Duluth has entered into a purchase agreement with the owner of Lincoln Park's Seaway Hotel, according to city officials.
Keith Hamre, the director of planning and construction services for the City of Duluth, explained the Seaway was condemned in July of 2012 when it needed emergency repairs following the flood. The city lifted the order a few months later and then gave the owner a year to make other changes, including finding a professional property management.
Hamre said the owner didn't find new management, and the Seaway is now without a rental license.
"The fire chief could order the building vacated, but we did not want to do that without trying to exhaust every potential solution," said Hamre.
HRA is stepping in to own and operate the building. The purchase agreement, however, is contingent on financing. The HRA is asking for $230,000 from the Duluth Economic Development Authority (DEDA). They will also need around $800,000 from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.
They are still working out the details, but HRA is planning ahead, and so are the tenants.
"A lot of us like to think of it as home. I think of it as a home away from home because I can always come back here," explained Eddie J. Smith.
Smith has lived in the Seaway on and off since 2000. Now, he's chairman of the Seaway Tenants Association. He said the tenants are excited for the change.
The HRA hopes to purchase the Seaway by March. Then, they can get going on needed repairs and upgrades.
"Certainly [we want to] improve the living environment. We think there are some issues, in terms of property management, that we want to be able to monitor much more closely," explained HRA Executive Director Rick Ball.
Ball said they will do the work unit by unit so tenants may have to move rooms, but will not need to move out.
The HRA is working with the Center City Housing Corp. and other non-profits to help ensure affordable and also supportive housing.
They also hope to fill the commercial vacancies on the ground floor. Duluth City Councilor Howie Hanson represents the Lincoln Park neighborhood and said a change for the Seaway is a big step.
"I've been saying two things. One, it's our time, and second, my vision for the neighborhood is this could be like a Dinky Town type of environment with workforce housing," said Hanson.
Hamre said the Seaway is a large piece of a bigger city plan. They are taking a look at the area stretching from Garfield Avenue and Carlton Avenue and coming up with a vision.
"It was kind of known as the furniture district, but now it's transitioning to something else. And are we doing things that are helping it transition to that?" said Hamre.
Hamre said they'll begin the visioning process in spring, but the Seaway is a good place to start.
DEDA is expected to discuss the HRA financing on January, 22.
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