Future of Kozy Apartments in Hands of Unlikely Alliance

By KBJR News 1

December 3, 2012 Updated Dec 3, 2012 at 11:34 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNC NOW) - Kozy Apartments owner Eric Ringsred has teamed up with former Duluth planning and development director Mike Conlan, with hopes of gutting the uninhabitable, 50 unit apartment and turning it into a mix of middle to low–income housing.

Former Duluth city development director–turned–Pastoret Partners company founder, Mike Conlan, said in a previous interview with NNC that the need for affordable housing in Duluth is growing.

"There's a lot of pressure to try to provide low income housing for those who need it most...you know, there are homeless people," said Conlan.

Together, he and Ringsred say they're hoping to invest $8 million into restoring the historic building—focusing on returning much of the exterior to its original, century–old form...

"...and create probably 34 units of affordable housing in the building," said Conlan.

It's a plan that Mayor Don Ness says has real opportunity: "Because it is a historic building, it is eligible for state and federal historic tax credits. For the housing that they provide, there are some state and federal programs that they can apply for."

Mayor Ness says the city is willing to work on establishing those funding opportunities for the partners, but says guarantees must be made by Conlan and Ringsred before going forward with the project, citing numerous run–ins with the law that occurred outside and inside the Kozy Bar and Apartments.

"[Conlan] did give me assurances that, [by] the way they are approaching this, it will be a different product and a different circumstance than what we saw in the past," said Ness.

Assurances include doing away with the Kozy Bar, but delays could jeopardize the project and the building. Extensive damage from fire, June's flooding, and three heatless winters means if funding falls through, the building will be torn down.

"If something is not done—if the building isn't invested in—we will lose that building, and it will have to come down," said Ness.

Conlan and Ringsred have submitted historical and rehabilitation plan applications with approval expected by November of 2013.

Ness says federal tax credits are easier to obtain, as long as a particular project meets the criteria.

State funding, however, may not be so easy, as competition between priority projects could keep money from coming the Kozy's way.

Posted to the web by Billy Wagness