Narrow lot, narrow house: How new construction in Duluth’s otherwise empty 25-foot lots can fit – Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH – A 25 foot wide lot doesn’t leave much room to build a house, especially when setbacks are applied.

But Duluth is full of such sites, many of which have long stood empty.

Using setback deviations, a newly built home in West Duluth’s Irving neighborhood aims to be a “prototype” for building new homes on tight city lots, said project designer Benjamin Olsen.

“We don’t have to think about expanding the city’s borders,” Olsen said. “We can actually condense what already exists and use (infrastructure) services that are already on offer.”

Located on a corner lot at 5810 Redruth St., the 1,000-square-foot home is just 12 feet, 10 inches wide (without setback deviations it would have had only a 7-foot-wide buildable area), but is 40 feet long.

A narrow lot required creativity from One Roof Community Housing to design and build the two bedroom home at 5810 Redruth Street. The house is now for sale.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

On the ground floor there is a living room at the back and a kitchen at the front, connected by a hallway with cupboards, half a bathroom, a cupboard and a utility room on the side.

Upstairs are two bedrooms, one at the front and one at the back of the house, connected by a hallway, full bathroom and laundry room.

Throughout the home, large windows let in natural light and make the home appear larger than it actually is.

Project manager Josh MacInnes, then with the general contractor for Project 1 LLC, said “every square inch has a purpose” in the house.

“It had a really good, simple Scandinavian vibe,” MacInnes said. β€œIt felt minimalist, but also functional in many ways. It felt like it was new, but it was also a part of it.”

New house.

Debbie Freedman, housing projects coordinator for One Roof Community Housing Community Land Trust, speaks to a visitor in one of the two bedrooms of the home at 5810 Redruth St. on Wednesday.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

It is one of the first projects to be completed as part of the City of Duluth’s Rebuild Duluth program. Launched in 2019, the program offered 13 free locations to developers and others looking to add housing.

Olsen and his business partner Ryan Hughes proposed three designs through their St. Paul-based company, Office Hughes Olsen. They eventually settled on two projects in two locations offered by Rebuild Duluth and are collaborating with One Roof Community Housing on both.

Her first home in Irving is now for sale to eligible buyers through One Roof’s Land Trust program. On Tuesday, it was listed on Zillow for $160,000, which is $60,000 below its estimated market value.

New house.

Jim Philbin

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

Total development costs were even higher at about $270,000, said Jim Philbin, One Roof’s Community Land Trust director.

But Duluth needs more housing. And a new single-family home can cost $500,000, which would not be feasible for the low- to middle-income individuals served by One Roof, Philbin said.

“We can actually create a new housing unit here… Duluth needs so many more housing units than it currently has. Anyone we can add, by hook or crook, is great. It’s such a great need,” Philbin said.

Theresa Bajda, a city planner, said there will not be another round of Duluth rebuilding. Instead, available city-owned infill lots will be made available through the city’s new Housing Trust Fund.

But existing Rebuild Duluth projects are making progress. A Rebuild Duluth project in the Lakeside neighborhood was also recently completed and sold: two single family homes on Otsego Street designed by architect Jay Isenberg.

New house.

The full bath at 5810 Redruth St., Duluth.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

And another eight Rebuild Duluth projects are “underway,” Bajda said.

But the high construction costs make this difficult.

Olsen and One Roof hope to use a similar design for a property they are building through Rebuild Duluth at 426 N. 52nd Ave. W. in West Duluth’s Spirit Valley neighborhood.

New house.

The living room at 5801 Redruth St., Duluth.

Steve Kuchera/Duluth News Tribune

But Debbie Freedman, One Roof’s housing coordinator, said the soil at this site could make building difficult and more expensive.

However, Olsen feels the Irving house was a successful “proof of concept” and believes other narrow lots will have houses on it in the future.

“There’s so much potential on these narrow lots,” Olsen said. “There are hundreds of them in the city.”

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