New development planned for Grand Marais downtown on site of 3 businesses previously destroyed by fire

frontal view of an architectural rendering
The Grand Marais City Council will soon decide whether to approve a proposed mixed-use downtown development.
City of Grand Marais

Updated 7:35 a.m.

Grand Marais could soon be home to a new downtown development featuring a restaurant, short term rentals, and an event center with a rooftop courtyard on the site of a 2020 fire that destroyed three businesses.

Members of the city’s planning and zoning commission unanimously backed the 30,00-square-foot proposed development at its meeting Wednesday. It now heads to the city council for possible approval.

The proposal calls for a restaurant, bar and retail space on the ground floor. The second floor would include 10 units of short term rentals and an event center with a rooftop courtyard.

The proposed development is on the site of a wind-whipped fire in 2020 that destroyed three downtown businesses, including The Crooked Spoon restaurant. The vacant lots sit next to the iconic Sven and Ole’s pizza eatery.

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"We’ve got a good working concept here on how we want to present and bring to Grand Marais a good mix of businesses that we feel are in need after the fires of 2020,” developer Joel Saint John told the planning commission.

“We’ve spent three years acquiring the footprint,” said Saint John, who owns the Mayhew Hotel in Grand Marais, located the next block over from the proposed development on Wisconsin Street.

He said he and his wife don’t have outside investors, and are planning to live and work in Grand Marais. “We’re excited to be more of a part of the community than we already are.”

Commissioners and members of the public spoke to the need for an event center.

“We’ve always talked about the need for an event center, gathering place in Grand Marais, we’ve never really had that. This might fill some of those needs, restaurant and other facilities to go along with it,” said Tim Kennedy, whose family owned a gift shop that was destroyed in the 2020 fire.

 aerial view of an architectural rendering
The proposal now heads to the city council for possible approval.
City of Grand Marais

Commissioner Anton Moody said in his eight years on the city council, officials discussed the need for a facility to host weddings and other functions. But nothing ever happened.

“There’s a large part of the community was missing after the fires. And I guess I’m excited to see what will happen,” Moody said, noting he was pleased that the developers kept their project, with an estimated size of nearly 30,000 square feet, within the city’s 30 foot height restriction.

“Because that would be a much different conversation.”

Saint John said while the specifics of the project design will be fine-tuned as it moves forward, the mix of businesses and overall concept are in place.

“We’re excited to bring new life to that block where there was a lot of losses four years ago.”

This story has been updated to reflect the estimated size of the project.