When the 2022 Legislative session fizzled to an unproductive end in May, preservation supporters were disappointed for many reasons. Not only did the Legislature fail to extend the state historic tax credit, but it also failed to pass a capital investment bill to reinvest in deteriorating public assets across the state.
A number of preservation projects had been included in draft bonding bills in 2022. Rethos wrote a letter of support to Capital Investment Committee chairs Rep. Fue Lee (DFL, Minneapolis) and Sen. Tom Bakk (I, Cook) in support of a state bonding funds request from the Duluth Armory Arts and Music Center.
Rethos has had a longstanding interest in the rehabilitation of the Duluth Armory. Over the past two decades, our non-profit organization has helped to provide organizational support and technical assistance for this historic landmark near the shore of Lake Superior. We have assisted the Armory’s non-profit board with applying for grant funds and vetting redevelopment proposals. We have toured the property and then encouraged historic rehabilitation developers to share in the Armory Arts & Music Center’s vision for this unique place. We believe that the rehabilitation and reuse of the Armory will add a new dimension to the area’s tourism economy, extending the appeal of the lakefront past Canal Park and up into core neighborhoods of Duluth that will benefit from new investment. The planned marketplace and food hall will create multiple opportunities for entrepreneurs while also providing a new arts and music venue that will attract visitors and locals alike.
Historic building development can be a complex process that is non-linear, iterative, and lengthy. Supporters of the Duluth Armory have experienced this firsthand. Since forming in 2001, these stalwart volunteers have persevered through city regulations, disastrous flooding, development setbacks, and a global pandemic because of the singularity of their vision and their commitment to this historic place. Through their volunteer efforts, they have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants, philanthropic funds, and donations.
In this time of record state budget surplus, we believe this is the perfect opportunity to finally move forward with the Duluth Armory Arts & Music Center’s vision for this irreplaceable landmark - with the state’s help. That assistance should be paired with the private investment that is only possible with an extension of the state Historic Tax Credit.
We respectfully request the MN Legislature’s support for this endeavor, which will leave a legacy in Duluth that may inspire the next Bob Dylan. Please include a $7.5 million appropriation for the Duluth Armory in the forthcoming Capital Investment bill.
P.S. Check out this video from YouTubers Duluth Urbex for an interior tour of the Armory.