The Duluth Planning Commission unanimously denied "without prejudice" a request for a special-use permit to allow an office to locate in the former Sensibly Chic space in downtown Duluth. The Monday (May 7) decision was based on the lack of an identifiable tenant for 3131A Main St.
If a suitable office tenant is found, the request can go back for reconsideration by the commission after 15 days, much sooner than if it had been denied outright. The planning commission’s recommendation would be forwarded to the Duluth City Council for final approval.
According to David Cossette, owner of the building, “the space has been vacant for the past eight months, and no qualified retail tenants have been interested in renting it.” Shelly Howard, his wife, had continued to operate the antiques and collectibles shop in the space after the previous tenant left.
They had closed Sensibly Chic earlier this year and planned to develop a “Tavern on Main” in the space, but then decided against it. While developing a business plan, Cossette said, figures indicated that it would have been difficult to sell enough hamburgers and beer to make a profit. They subsequently posted a “For Rent” sign in the window.
Even though the city council is scheduled to soon consider a recommendation from the Alcohol Review Board to remove a minimum 50-seat requirement for restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages, Cossette said he and Shelly did not plan to revisit the pub concept.
He said that a potential office tenant that had wanted to rent the space just recently had decided to go to Suwanee instead due to the delay involved in obtaining the special-use permit in Duluth. There was a space available in Suwanee that the prospective tenant could move into immediately, he said.
Cossette also said that they would prefer to rent to a retail client if possible.
Because their building is located in Duluth’s Central Business District, professional and business offices are only allowed to locate on the second floor. The building is one-story, so the special-use permit is needed to allow a tenant to rent space for an office.
Jim and Jana Contardi from Peace, Love & Decorating next door attended the planning commission meeting to show concern about the departure from retail. Jim Contardi told the planning commission they had invested heavily in extensive renovations and in the city’s “10-10-10 plan” to attract retail, restaurants and entertainment venues. Interior designers Jana Contardi and Jennifer Cook opened the home décor and gift shop May 3.