Council approves demolition of Astoria Hotel

Another contributing building to the Duluth Commercial Historic District could soon be gone. The Duluth City Council voted to reverse a decision by the Heritage Preservation Commission to block the demolition of the former Astoria Hotel at 102 E. Superior St. The two-story white brick building housed the Chinese Dragon restaurant, Hucklebeary store and Old Towne Antiques until the end of 2021, when the building’s new owner, ZMC Hotels, terminated the leases.

The building was constructed in 1905 and was recently listed on the Duluth Preservation Alliance’s list of the city’s most endangered places.


Matthew James

about 2 years ago

As I understand it, based on the Duluth News Tribune article and the Almanac North story posted earlier on Perfect Duluth Day, the basic, undisputed facts are as follows:

Someone in Duluth city planning told a hotel development company that if they bought this property, they could tear it down without having to go through the historic preservation commission even though it is in a historic district. This would be the case if the building is not listed as a contributing building in that district. The developers found out that the building is in fact listed as a contributing building while in the process of evicting all of the paying tenants from the building. 

They completed the eviction of the tenants and then successfully argued that the city council should give them a demolition permit because the building has no tenants and will become a public nuisance as the developers have no plans to bring the old tenants back, look for new tenants, or do anything to repair the building. 

That city council decision only makes sense if you can separate the fact that the building is vacant and slowly becoming a public nuisance from the reason that it is vacant and slowly becoming a public nuisance -- you’d have to be completely uninterested in any sort of historical context. Oh, wait, now the decision makes more sense.  

Anyway, if you would like to know which 87 contributing properties are protected as part of the Duluth Commercial Historic District, you can find the complete list online with descriptions of the historical value of each of the properties.

Hotel Astoria’s listing as a contributing property starts on page 25. I did not get this document from anyone in the Duluth city planning office. I just spent about two minutes on Google. It’s actually worth a read, unless of course you plan on buying one of these buildings and tearing it down. In that instance, probably best just to ignore it. 

And since the developers have no current plans to actually do anything with the property, I thought I would attach an artificial-intelligence generated photo to show an approximation of how this property will soon be contributing to the Duluth Commercial Historic District.

Paul Lundgren

about 2 years ago

I guess one question that springs to mind from the artificial intelligence image is whether, if the building comes down, there will be a wooden bridge to the Lakewalk wrapping around nothing.

Matthew James

about 2 years ago

Good question. The AI image has been accordingly adjusted.

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