Construction Boom in Grand Marais 2.2.24
This year will see unprecedented construction activity across Grand Marais.
Great Expectations School (GES) on the east side of town began a significant expansion project last October after years of planning and fundraising. GES is a charter school serving students in grades K-8. Many of the materials used for construction have been purchased locally.
The expansion makes maximum use of space and will allow for expansion in a second story as the school grows. The project includes six new classrooms and a new kitchen for school meals.
North House Folk School
An educational facility of another kind, North House Folk School, is building what it calls a “new front door” at its Grand Marais campus.
For many years, what was called the Yellow House, served as the school store and entry point for visitors and students. Last summer, the Yellow House was moved to a new location on County Road 7 by its new owner, local resident Dave Walter. Walter indicated that the house will be a long-term rental when rehabilitated.
North House is replacing the Yellow House with a two-story timber frame structure Welcome Center. Students will enjoy sweeping views of the Grand Marais Harbor from an upstairs classroom. A lake-level classroom will connect students with the rest of the campus.
North House’s website says, “The new front door of campus will provide a warm welcome for students and spark curiosity about traditional craft for visitors – connecting them with the crafts of instructors and the tools and books needed to find their passions.”
North House veteran and timber frame builder Peter Henrikson designed the project and worked with Tom Healy, one of the first Northouse instructors, and dozens of volunteers to cut 265 pieces of timber. The two men then worked with a crew of professional timber framers to raise the structure.
With sheathing and roofing in place at press time, the new welcome center will be complete this summer.
Crosby Bakery in Grand Marais has operated out of a small kitchen in an old church building, home to Betsy Bowen’s Studio at 301 West 1st Street.
Owner Hana Crosby grew up in Grand Marais and has been baking her entire life. She built Crosby Bakery into a successful wholesale and special order bakery. Now, she will have a full-service retail bakery as well.
Her products are sold at the Cook County Co-op, Java Moose, World's Best Donuts, and Fishermen’s Daughter.
In the fall of 2021, Hana and Tom Crosby purchased some vacant land on Wisconsin Street next to Blue Water Cafe, the home of the Leng movie theater of decades ago. In December last year, construction began to create a full-service retail bakery with a short-term vacation rental unit above.
The Crosbys expect the bakery to open by this summer.
Across the street from the Crosby Bakery sit four vacant lots that will see construction before the year is out. In April 2020, a wind-fueled fire raged through and destroyed three commercial buildings housing retailers White Pine North, Picnic and Pine, and the restaurant Crooked Spoon.
Since then, the land has been cleared of debris, and Sydney’s Pizza is now housed in a portable building, and several food trucks are on the vacant land.
Those three lots, along with the former parking lot for Joyne’s Ben Franklin, have been acquired by Joel Saint John, owner of the Mayhew Inn in Grand Marais. He plans to build a 10,000-square-foot building on those four lots, including a restaurant, event space, retail spaces, ten lodging units, and a rooftop patio.
City of Grand Marais
Plans are in the works to start construction this year on a larger liquor store and a new city hall. The current buildings will be demolished, and the liquor store will be located in another building in the city during construction to continue operations. According to Patrick Knight, Communications Director for the city, staff will work remotely during construction.
The county is preparing to remodel its current building to accommodate staff and future needs better. It will also expand the existing law enforcement center and provide adequate facilities for the court.
Construction of single-family homes and cabins continues unabated.
Upcoming housing-related projects include a $10 million effort to repair and update Birchwood Apartments, an older low-income apartment complex.
A 51-unit development called Switchback Apartments on the Gunflint Trail is on the books. The developers are still working on financing, and a groundbreaking day has yet to be announced.
Developers of The Heights, a multi-family housing project near Up Yonder, are seeking a height variance for the building from the city. The current plan for the building includes underground parking, solar panels on the roof, and nine-foot ceiling heights in the apartments.
Best Small Lake Town
A national travel magazinne, Travel and Leisure, recently named Grand Marais “America’s Best Small Lake Town.” It will undoubtedly buzz with construction over the coming months.