DEDA moves forward with a proposal for the former Lester Park Golf Course

DEDA moves forward with a proposal for the former Lester Park Golf Course

The DEDA-owned part of the former Lester Park Golf Course may be made into active senior housing.

With the closure of Lester Park Golf Course, Duluth Economic Development Authority (DEDA) put out a request for proposals for the 37-acres of the property that they own. Two proposals were considered, and a special committee decided on one submitted by Oppidan Investment Co to build active senior housing.

“It’s a little bit different than independent living. It’s seniors that aren’t quite ready to move into a senior housing facility with care, but they do want to move out of their homes and downsize a little bit,” said Oppidan Developer Ryan Grover. “So they’re looking for independent living without all the services.”

The company has already had success with senior housing, including within the Northland.

“Our founder, Joe Ryan, he’s an Iron Range guy who’s born and raised in Hibbing, Minnesota, and we’ve already invested quite a bit in northern Minnesota, both in Hermantown and Grand Rapids on the senior housing front,” said Grover. “One in Grand Rapids is leased up or we’re close to being 100% occupied there, and it’s been really welcomed by the community. So it’s been a huge success. And then our ‘Pillars of Hermantown‘ senior housing community is slated to open this spring. We’ve received a tremendous amount of interest there, held a handful of interest area informational sessions, and kind of the theme there is just we can’t build enough independent living and they just want more.”

DEDA believes that this type of development will have an added benefit for the housing market.

“It’s also allowing for some of those detached single family homes, which I think everybody in this community recognizes we need, it helps bring some of that supply back online for first-time homebuyers, or for those who are looking to go into their second home, which would then vacate a first time home,” explained DEDA Executive Director Chad Ronchetti. “There’s a housing cycle that typically happens, but without having some of that that upper end 55 plus style home, we can’t continue that cycle and get new homeowners into new homes.”

For those 55+, this housing proposal would provide a sense of community and convenience.

“It gives them more freedom and flexibility to travel because they don’t have the home, said Ronchetti. “This kind of product really enables a certain subset of the population to still retain their active lifestyle and to live live in a community that is tight knit, that has a lot of quality amenities and has a lot of quality finishes. They’re not sacrificing the quality of their lifestyle, but gives them the freedom of not having not having the personal property property to maintain.” 

DEDA and Oppidan are excited to work together, but this process is in the very early stages.

“The selection committee liked the idea, and so now we need to actually start talking about specifics,” explained Rochetti. “So we’re going to start hitting some of those higher points of how many units are we actually talking about here? What are we actually talking about for for purchase price? Right. And those things will all get ratified into a pre-development agreement.”

Once the logistics are covered and development begins, Oppidan hopes to build in a three-phase plan. The company anticipates being able to break ground in 2025.