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Superior Plan Commission recommends business grants

Five small businesses in Superior will invest $187,315 in improvements with the help of the city's small business grants.

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Government Center in Superior, Wisconsin.
Jed Carlson / 2019 file / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — On Wednesday, Sept. 21, the Superior Plan Commission recommended five small businesses receive a total of $46,489 in grants to help with $187,315 in planned renovations.

Projects include plans to install a new concrete apron in front of the DeSmet Agency; exterior restoration work at Earth Exchange; a full roof replacement at Keyport Liquor; and renovations that include façade repairs 1307 Tower Ave. owned by Range Real Estate, and 1116 Ogden Ave. owned by Creative CATS LLC.

However, one commissioner sought to subject two projects to additional review by the city’s Historic Preservation Committee.

“I have some concerns with a couple of the proposals,” Commissioner Garner Moffat said. He identified the Range Real Estate and Creative CATS projects as having significant façade changes as part of their planned projects.

“I want to make sure the work that we’re doing in terms of façade changes qualifies as improvement and not just an expenditure,” Moffat said. He said in both cases the properties are listed on the Wisconsin Historical Society’s register of historic properties.

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The buildings are included in the architecture and history inventory posted on the Wisconsin Historical Society’s website, but neither building is among the 18 buildings or sites included in the state’s Register of Historic Places. Properties on the register are subject to review by the state’s historic preservation review board, a 15-member board made up of professionals in the fields of architecture, archaeology, art history, history and in the fields of planning, law, real estate and landscape architecture to determine historic significance.

“I’m hoping we can send it to the HPC and get their approval for the design of the improvements,” Moffat said.

However, commissioners said it wouldn’t be fair to the owners of the properties to subject the projects to additional review.

“If this was still in its full historic glory, restoring that is one thing,” Commissioner Brent Fennessey said after looking up 1307 Tower Ave. in the inventory and discovering notes about previous alterations to the building. “When it’s not in its original form, I guess I have a hard time asking a business owner to bring it back … I don’t think this warrants a review by the HPC.”

Commissioner Dennis Dalbec said neither property is historically accurate to their original construction.

"For this kind of process, we should change our application,” Commissioner Tylor Elm said. He said if the commission wants historic buildings reviewed by the historic preservation commission before consideration by the plan commission that should be included in the application, but applying that concept to current applicants wasn’t fair.

Commissioner Brian Finstad, a member of the historic preservation commission, said preservation shouldn’t be a series of mandates. While he would welcome and enjoy owners of historic properties seeking advice, mandating it for current applicants wasn’t fair.

The plan commission voted down the referral on the two projects and approved all the grant applications.

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The council will consider final approval of the grants Oct. 4.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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