Investors Look into UMD, St. Scholastica Neighborhoods as Small Area Plan Almost Complete

By KBJR News 1

January 19, 2012 Updated Jan 19, 2012 at 11:31 PM CDT

DULUTH, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Duluth residents gathered Thursday to hear about some finishing touches to a small area plan for neighborhoods surrounding UMD and St. Scholastica.

Real estate activity has already picked up in those areas since a "protection zone," limiting new rentals was lifted.

From ending the 300-foot rule last March to the expiration of the protection zone which had both limited the number and types of rentals, Duluth's housing market is now opened-up.

"It definitely has created more excitement around the campus neighborhoods, especially in the investor world where people can go out, purchase a home that's on the market now and get a multi-tenant license and rent that out to college students," said the president of the Duluth Area Association of Realtors Nick Christensen.

He says some homes that have been on the market for years, have now been discovered by buyers.

"The highest and best use for a property of that proximity is going to be a college rental," said Christensen.

While only five new multi-tenant licenses were applied for as of last week since the zone was lifted, more homes are being looked at by prospective buyers. That's while a committee is finishing the small area plan to bring balance among permanent and temporary neighbors.

"The higher education overlay district would be designed to minimize the impact to any surrounding single-family neighborhoods," said Jenn Moses of the Duluth Planning Division.

Goals of the plan include appropriate zoning for housing and retail areas, minimizing noise, light, and visual impacts of large student areas, promoting student housing near transit and within walking distance of campus, increasing alternate modes of transportation and getting student more involved in the community.

"It really helps make students better neighbors, helps them have a better college experience and helps encourage them to stay," said Moses.

Christensen agrees the plan will bring stabilization.

"The best thing that we're doing is planning for the future. If we can have plans in place that can promote harmony between these two groups, I think everything will work out just fine," said Christensen.

The small area plan will be sent to planning commission March 13th and if approved will then go to the Duluth City Council.

For more details, check out the plan here. .
Click on "Presentation" under the date Thursday, Jan. 19.

The Housing Redevelopment Authority (HRA) stopped buying homes to fix-up for needy families around the campuses in December of 2010, when the City Council voted to lift the 300-foot rule, which didn't allow new rentals within 300 feet of another.

HRA leaders say they were no longer able guarantee too many college houses wouldn't pop-up in those neighborhoods and keep the area stable.

Leaders say the completion of the small area plan may be the right assurance of stabilization to return to doing work in those neighborhoods.

Posted to Web by Jena Pike