Plans to demolish historic Duluth building stall

Astoria Hotel in Duluth, MN
Astoria Hotel in Duluth, MN(KBJR/CBS3 Duluth)
Published: Jun. 13, 2022 at 9:16 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN -- The old Astoria hotel, also known as the Bullseye building, won’t be demolished for the time being.

Monday, property owners spoke in front of the Duluth Historic Preservation Commission to make their case to move forward with demolition.

Anne Stratioti, representing property owner ZMC Hotels, said when the building was purchased, they saw an opportunity.

“The bullseye building was purchased in 2017 with the intent that the site would be a good location for future development,” she said.

Stratioti said the building quickly deteriorated under their ownership, as water main leaks, sewer issues, and falling keystones made upkeep more and more difficult.

“The building currently has a cost of $750,000, and the cost to repair only, not bring it back to its hotel Astoria Days, is $2.4 million,” said Stratioti.

That money would only pay for repairs to the building’s exterior.

To repair the interior of the building, she estimates another $5 to $6 million could be involved, without the promise of a return on investment.

Tenants were given the notice to vacate in December and were given until March to move out.

There are currently no plans to fill the space with a parking structure.

When the owners were finished speaking, public comment was allowed, and several members of the community came forward in opposition to the building’s demolition.

“If they have a cognitive dissonance approach to historic buildings, meaning it’s too difficult [for them] to make happen, then maybe get another owner in there that wants to make it happen,” said Rod Raymond, owner of the Fitgers Brewhouse, who’s helped restore several buildings downtown.

Raymond and others expressed the value buildings like the Astoria Hotel have to the Downtown corridor.

“You don’t tear it down without exploring all options because you don’t like what’s happening there. It’s not the building’s fault,” he said.

Stratioti acknowledged the concerns but believes the building is too far gone.

“This building has been in decline for decades and is not a prime example to showcase the construction of block and brick that permeates downtown Duluth,” she said.

Several other concerns were raised.

One community member argued the building’s status as a Nationally Protected Historic Structure means it’s subject to different rules.

He believes the demolition process should be conducted according to state regulations rather than city ordinances.

The commission decided to table the approval process for another date, requesting the owners come back with a better idea of the cost needed to restore the building.

There is no set date for when the issue will be discussed again.

NOTE: Several modifications have been made to reflect inaccuracies in the original story.

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