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Contaminated Lakeside Land Awaiting Cleanup Goes to One Roof Housing

May 13, 2015 04:13 PM

Duluth leaders said a piece of empty Lakeside land has lead contamination 10 times higher than what is safe for human consumption, and Monday, the City Council approved a plan that will allow them to clean it up while also filling a need for housing within the city.

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City Planning Director Keith Hamre said the vacant lot at 41st and 40th Avenues East, sandwiched between Jay Street and Dodge Street, was once home to the city's gas storage facility until about the 1960s. Since then, the lot has sat vacant, and Hamre said studies showed the high lead contamination likely came from paint chipped off the building when it was removed.

Hamre said it was a few years ago that the city put out a Request for Proposal, asking for developers interested in building on the land. He said they had one interested party, but that party backed out after they learned they'd actually be loosing money when factoring in the soil cleanup cost. 

According to Hamre, City leaders then applied for a $300,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development in 2014. The State agreed to pitch in under the condition that the land would be home to at least three moderate income houses priced around $226,000.

That's where One Roof Community Housing comes in. After the land is decontaminated, the Duluth-based organization will construct eight homes on the property, three of them moderate-income according to the state's requirement. 

"It's a great opportunity to build some new houses for a range of our population that isn't able to find houses on the market right now," Cliff Knettel, Deputy Director at One Roof Community Housing, said. 

City Councilor Jennifer Julsrud said the City held meetings with nearby residents, and heard their concerns about things like storm water runoff. Hamre said storm water runoff will be addressed in the construction process. Just one step, Hamre said, toward filling a big housing need.

"To meet our housing demand, we've need 4,000 units in the next four years," Hamre said. "This is going to help us toward that."

There was one community member who addressed the Council Monday night, saying he was concerned the city was giving away free land. Councilor Joel Sipress countered that by saying this land was not eligible for a normal land auction process because of its contamination. 


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