|By Jane Brissett, Duluth News-Tribune, Minn.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jun. 8, 2005 - Historic Greysolon Plaza in downtown Duluth, Minn., is likely to be purchased by the company that plans to build a new Sheraton hotel and condominiums.
George Sherman of Sherman Associates in Minneapolis confirmed Tuesday that he is negotiating to purchase the 1925-era building, once known as the Hotel Duluth, at 231 E. Superior St. Once the city's most elegant hotel, it now is the site of 150 low-income apartments for senior citizens.
Sherman's plan for a $36 million hotel-condominium just across Third Avenue East figures heavily into the plan to purchase Greysolon, according to a city official. The developer wants Greysolon Ballroom to serve as the Sheraton's ballroom, according to Tom Cotruvo, city manager of business development. Available for public rental, it's a popular site for weddings and other gatherings.
"The ballroom space is one of the most beautiful spaces we have in the community," he said.
A skywalk that ultimately will connect the SMDC Health System cancer center under construction on First Street to the Technology Village at Lake Avenue and Superior Street will connect the Sheraton to the Greysolon Ballroom.
Construction of the Sheraton is expected to begin in September with an April 2007 opening projected, Cotruvo told Duluth Economic Development Authority commissioners Monday evening.
Sherman did not say how much he expects to pay for the property, but it's listed at $4.9 million with the city assessor. About $3 million will be invested in building renovations, Cotruvo said.
"We certainly are keeping all the seniors in the units, and would intend to rehab the building -- both the ballroom and the common areas -- and upgrade the units," Sherman said Tuesday. "But it would certainly stay as a senior rental facility, and we would operate it much the same way it is now other than significant upgrades."
A Minnesota Housing Finance Agency spokeswoman confirmed that the agency is in discussion with Sherman regarding financing the purchase. If the deal is completed, Sherman plans to keep the building's Section 8 rent assistance designation through 2010, said Rochelle Rubin, the agency's director of communications.
Residents pay 30 percent of their adjusted income in rent, according to Carla Schneider, president of real estate management for Bowman Properties, which manages the building.
If Sherman buys Greysolon Plaza, "we are hopeful that the commitment under Section 8 would be extended to 2020," Rubin said. However, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development would have to approve the extension.
That should come as a relief to the seniors who live there.
"We knew the building was for sale, but we don't know anything more," said Betty Lund, president of the Greysolon Community Club. But she confirmed residents are concerned about whether they'll have to move.
Sherman said he is negotiating the purchase of the Greysolon Plaza and some parking lot parcels with the Bowman family and their company, Bowcorp. He expects contracts to be complete within two weeks, with closing in July on parking lot property and in September for the building.
The 14-story building has a restaurant, beauty shop and restaurant on its main floor as well as a large, well-appointed lobby. The 150 apartments are all one-bedroom units. Assisted living services also are available. Currently, the building is full with a waiting list.
The Hotel Duluth used to be synonymous with the city's most elegant social affairs, including the annual Hall of Fame dinners.
Henry Fonda, Charles Boyer and President John F. Kennedy were among notables who once stayed there, according to a history of the hotel by local historian Sheldon Aubut.
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Copyright (c) 2005, Duluth News-Tribune, Minn.
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