A $6 million apartment project has been announced for a former furniture store in the booming Lincoln Park Craft District, the third of three massive neighborhood furniture stores to undergo changes in the past year.
Director of Development for 1LLC Josh MacInnes said the longtime Enger & Olson furniture store, which most recently operated as Furniture and Mattresses 4 Less, has been purchased and will be remodeled for apartment and commercial space. St. Louis County property records show RBI Group LLC purchased the 56,000-square-foot building at 1824 W. Superior St. for $730,000 in January.
The new project, called Enger Lofts, will include 40 market-rate apartment units on two upper floors with commercial and retail space planned for street level. The basement will be used for overflow and storage.
1LLC is the project general contractor.
“We’re sure excited about the opportunity to even get to be doing something in the neighborhood,” MacInnes said. “There’s so much exciting stuff going on.”
MacInnes said the building owners and developers are passionate about Duluth history, quality housing opportunities and continued Lincoln Park improvement. He said the turn-of-the-century building is expected to become a new neighborhood anchor like it was during the heyday of Duluth’s West End “furniture row.”
“We fell in love with the building,” he said. “It has great bones. The structure is just incredible and the history is amazing too.”
RBI Group LLC partnership includes Alan Nelson of ASP Plumbing and Mike and Dean Simonson of Simco Electric. Wagner Zaun Architecture has been hired for the design work. Demolition inside the building is expected to begin this spring.
Apartments will be predominantly one-bedroom and studio units. Leasing is expected to start at $800 per month. A coffee shop and other retailers are envisioned on the street level. New commercial space should be available in the first quarter of 2021 with apartment occupancy planned for June of the same year.
Tennant parking will be available in a lot on Michigan Street.
MacInnes said the development team launched a search for a Lincoln Park project last summer. Furniture and Mattresses 4 Less closed in 2018 and the building was purchased by Spark Works Craft District LLC shortly afterward for $650,000.
Spark Works, led by Duluth-based entrepreneur Augie Andersen, leased the facility to small businesses and planned to create a co-work space inside the building. Little renovation was done to the property, said MacInnes. For example, a 1970s-era, home living space showroom, created on the third floor by the Enger & Olson store, remains intact.
MacInnes said developers are eager to bring new life to the building and contribute to the Lincoln Park renaissance.
“There’s such a positive energy in the community. I think that it’s a huge tribute to all the businesses that have been investing, and people working every day down there,” said MacInnes. “Some people have been down there for a long time, but obviously there’s a new wave with a lot of positive energy.”
“We’re excited about the housing element. There’s a lot of vibrancy when you can have people that can live, work and play all in an ecosystem together.”
Two other multi-level, now-closed, Lincoln Park furniture stores have also seen new ownership and redevelopment plans.
Robert’s Home Furnishings, 2102 W. Superior St., is slated for demolition and the property will be redeveloped by Rachel Development, a St. Michael-based firm. The company plans to construct a 75-unit, four-story apartment building on the site.
Anderson Furniture, 2032 W. Superior St. was recently purchased by Nick Christensen and Devin Garrett, owners of Lake Wood Designs. Garrett and Christensen will move Lake Wood Design operations into the building and are planning a commercial and retail “market place” in its lower levels.
Enger & Olson, Robert’s Home Furnishings and Anderson Furniture were the anchor stores in the West End “furniture row” which operated along West Superior Street during the middle part of the 20th Century. Furniture row saw a slow decline begin in 1973 with the opening of Miller Hill Mall.
According to research conducted by Tony Dierckins, publisher of the Duluth history website Zenith City Press, the building at the southeast corner of Superior Street and 19th Avenue West was likely constructed in 1893. It became known as the US Block in 1897. West end furniture store operators Bert Enger and Emil Olson leased space in the US Block in 1909 and purchased the building in 1919. Enger & Olson Furniture operated at the location until 1971.
In 1920, Enger pledged $50,000 to help the city purchase property for a park, golf course and other recreational facilities above Skyline Drive and west of Twin Ponds. The property is now known as Enger Park, with its iconic 80-foot stone tower.
“Bert Enger was very philanthropic and an integral part of the community,” said MacInnes. “With that name, that connection, we just wanted to pay homage to the history of the building and all that has happened there.”
According to Dierckins, after Enger & Olson closed, Beck’s Furniture operated in the building from 1972 to 1991, followed by Johnson Brothers Furniture through 2012. Furniture and Mattresses 4 Less used the site for about six years, closing in 2018.
MacInnes said an outer shell – with its giant red triangles – will be removed during building restoration giving north side apartments a dramatic view of Enger Tower.
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