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

DULUTH — A 25-foot wide parcel of land doesn’t leave much space to build a house, especially when setbacks are applied.

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

With the help of setback variances, a newly built home in West Duluth’s Irving neighborhood is aiming to be a “prototype” for building new homes in narrow city lots, said project designer Benjamin Olsen.

“We don’t have to think about expanding the boundaries of the city,” Olsen said. “We can actually densify what’s already there and take advantage of the (infrastructure) services that are already being offered.”

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

A narrow lot required One Roof Community Housing to be creative in designing and building the two-bedroom house at 5810 Redruth Street. The house is now for sale.

Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

On the main floor, a living room is in the back and a kitchen in the front, connected by a hallway with closets, a half-bathroom, a closet and utility room on the side.

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

Throughout the house, large windows let in natural light and help the home feel larger than it actually is.

Project manager Josh MacInnes, then with the project’s general contractor 1 LLC, said “every square inch has a purpose” in the home.

“It had a really good, simple kind of Scandinavian feel to it,” MacInnes said. “It felt minimalistic, but also functional in a lot of ways. It felt like it was new, but it also kind of belonged there at the same time.”

New house.

One Roof Community Housing Community Land Trust Housing Development Coordinator Debbie Freedman talks to a visitor in one of two bedrooms in the house at 5810 Redruth St. on Wednesday.

Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

It’s one of the first projects completed as part of

the city of Duluth’s Rebuild Duluth program

. The program, launched in 2019, offered up 13 sites for free to developers and others looking to add housing.

Olsen and his business partner Ryan Hughes, through their St. Paul-based company Office Hughes Olsen, proposed three designs. They ultimately settled on two projects at two sites offered through Rebuild Duluth and are working with One Roof Community Housing on both of them.

Their first, the home in Irving, is now for sale to income-qualified buyers through One Roof’s land trust program. On Tuesday, it was

listed on Zillow for $160,000

, which is $60,000 below its appraised market value.

New house.

Jim Philbin

Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Total development cost was 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, something that wouldn’t be possible for the low- to middle-income earners served by One Roof, Philbin said.

“Here, we get to actually create a new housing unit … Duluth needs so many more housing units than it currently has. Every one that we can add, by hook or by crook, is great. It’s such a huge need,” Philbin said.

Theresa Bajda, a planner for the city, said there wouldn’t be another round of Rebuild Duluth. Instead, available city-owned infill parcels 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 “in progress,” Bajda said.

But high construction costs are making it difficult.

Olsen and One Roof are hoping to use a similar design on a lot they got 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 development coordinator, said soil at that site may make building difficult and more expensive.

Still, Olsen feels like the Irving house was a successful “proof of concept” and believes other narrow lots will have homes on them in the future.

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