Old Duluth high school to become new housing

Duluth Central High School
Duluth Central High School was built on top of Duluth's hillside in 1971.
Bob Kelleher / MPR News file

The hilltop site where the old Duluth Central High School has sat empty since 2011 will be developed into housing.

Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors, which has offices in Minneapolis and Chicago, has agreed to purchase the 77-acre site for $10 million. The Duluth school district listed the property, which sits on the crest of the hill overlooking downtown Duluth and Lake Superior, at $13.7 million when it consolidated to two high schools three years ago.

Duluth's unemployment rate is 3.4 percent, its lowest in 15 years. Job growth has been especially strong in the aviation and engineering sectors, said Chris Eng, director of business and economic development for Duluth.

That, in turn, has increased the demand for quality housing options. A recent study commissioned by the city of Duluth identified a need for 4,470 new housing units by 2020.

"This newest opportunity will allow us to continue to meet the need for new housing units in the city of Duluth, as Duluth continues to see strong job growth," Eng said.

The development could include apartments, town homes, single-family units and retail and office space.

In October, Harbor Bay announced a separate $36 million apartment and retail complex about a mile east of downtown Duluth.

"The Duluth economy is strong and expanding," said Harbor Bay co-founder Mark Bell. "The redevelopment of the Central High site is an incredible opportunity to meet market demand by designing versatile housing options."

Eng said he expects the high school to be demolished in late 2015 or early 2016 and construction to begin in early 2016.

"This is a very exciting step in the development of some of the land with the greatest potential in our beautiful city," said Duluth Mayor Don Ness.

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