The AmeriCorps Legacy House Story

In the heart of Duluth’s Lincoln Park neighborhood is a building that has sat boarded up for decades and is currently in the process of major renovation. Unfortunately, the story of blight isn’t unusual for Lincoln Park, a neighborhood in which several condemned properties are located. If you spoke to nearby residents, they would likely tell you that the property has remained unchanged for as long as they’ve lived in the neighborhood, becoming a refuge for pigeons over the years. Today, however, there’s quite a bit happening at the property, with trucks full of concrete and gravel coming around the back, the sounds of drills and hammers during the day, and a new banner out front that reads “Legacy House”. 

The story of the AmeriCorps Legacy House began in 2017, when the City of Duluth approached Ecolibrium3 with a unique proposition to take ownership of and restore the property. After the building was assessed for structural soundness and city code was reviewed for variability, it was determined that if the existing structure was demolished, due to the small lot size, it would become a vacant lot. Despite having a good shell, the building was in need of major repairs, which would require considerable time, effort, and funds. 

Still, Ecolibrium3 saw in the property an opportunity for redevelopment into an affordable housing model for community volunteers that would enable these individuals to serve in the Duluth community without becoming housing cost burdened. Furthermore, such a restoration project would allow a structure built over a hundred years ago to once again serve as a home and help to reduce blight within the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Through the restoration of the property, Ecolibrium3 would be able to create a lasting impact on the community, and thus, Legacy House was born. 

Over the years, much groundwork has been laid to transform Legacy House from a condemned property into a sound structure that can serve as a home. From 2017-2018, after the property was deeded to Ecolibrium3, several assessments were conducted in order to draw up architectural and structural plans for the building. Additionally, groups of Ecolibrium3 AmeriCorps VISTA members helped to complete the initial demolition and cleaning of the interior. In 2019, key partnerships were built with project management at Gardner Builders and the Duluth Building Trades, including the carpenters, plumbers, roofers, ironworkers, electricians, sheet metal workers, and so many other groups who have donated their time and labor to move the project forward. 

In 2020, we’ve officially begun construction on site, beginning with  realigning structural supports and pouring a concrete foundation in the basement! Additionally, at the beginning of October 2020, Ecolibrium3 was awarded a challenge grant of $40,000 from the Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation, an incredible testament to the hard work of our VISTA members, who helped to write and advocate for the grant. In the coming months, we will be engaging in fundraising efforts to meet the challenge grant requirement, meaning that upon successfully raising $40,000 as a project, we will receive an additional $40,000 from the Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation to devote to the Legacy House Project.

In the coming year, we are hoping to complete the Legacy House project with continued support and assistance from the community. We believe our AmeriCorps VISTA members contribute significantly to building the capacity of the Duluth community and ask that you consider living like a VISTA this November by donating to our Legacy House fundraiser on GiveMN. Your donation to the Legacy House project will make it possible for our volunteers to continue making our community a better place for all.