Future of apartment complex in Grand Marais stirs community concern
Image submitted to WTIP

Future of apartment complex in Grand Marais stirs community concern

The future of an apartment complex in Grand Marais stirred community concern during the first two weeks of October over a lack of housing in Cook County and the possible displacement of vulnerable adults.

“There are literally tenants weeping in the hallways here,” said Linda Sorenson, a resident of the Harborview Apartments in Grand Marais. Sorenson spoke with WTIP Oct. 11 about an upcoming sale of Harborview and what it means for the future of the apartment complex.

And while it is undeniable there is a lack of housing in Cook County, there is the possibility the turmoil surrounding the sale of Harborview is unnecessary. At the very least, the reaction about the future of Harborview is premature. Based on multiple interviews WTIP conducted regarding the future of Harborview, including with the potential new owner of the apartment complex who refused to give his name to WTIP, there are no immediate plans to change the way Harborview operates. That being the case, it is possible the arrangement between the new owner and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) could change at some point.

According to the Cook County Housing Redevelopment Authority (HRA), Harborview was listed for sale for approximately $2.2 million about eight months ago. Harborview – which is located at 11 E. 3rd St in Grand Marais, about two blocks up the hill from Highway 61 and Johnson’s Foods – is a HUD subsidized Section 8 senior and disabled apartment community. The property was built in 1978 and consists of 31 units, including 27 one bedroom apartments and four two-bedroom units.

During a public meeting of the HRA Oct. 11, Director Jason Hale said the organization is aware of concerns in the community about the pending sale of Harborview. Hale said the apartment complex is under contract and a sale of the building is scheduled to close Friday, Oct. 13.

“This is a legal, private transaction over which neither the HRA nor the city or county has any leverage or right to stop,” Hale said.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has reviewed and approved this sale, as is required while the affordability contract remains in place, according to the HRA.

According to the HRA, the “affordability contract” with HUD expires June 30, 2025. The future owner must give at least a one-year notice to tenants if they intend on changing rent fees or if they plan to convert the property to market rate. This means they could inform tenants of their intention to change the format with HUD by June 30, 2024, at the earliest, according to Hale. This timeline is important as there was widespread community concern on social media pages in the days leading up to the Oct. 11 HRA meeting that tenants at Harborview were facing immediate eviction following the sale of the apartment complex.

Sorenson, in speaking with WTIP, acknowledged that social media, including the Cook County MN and Grand Marais community pages on Facebook, can be toxic places “where rumors spread quickly.”

That being the case, Sorenson said people at Harborview were telling tenants that HUD will not be renewing its affordability contract when it expires in June 2025. The uncertainty of what that news and information meant caused alarm for some of the tenants at Harborview, she said.

The current and longtime manager of the Harborview Apartments is former Cook County Commissioner Garry Gamble. Gamble told WTIP Oct. 11 that the future of the apartment complex and if HUD will remain involved remains unknown at this time. The new owner “wants to have time to see if he can manage things on an economy of scale,” Gamble said.

In other words, it’s possible the apartment complex could continue to be managed and supported by HUD and there would be no change for the current tenants or on-site management, Gamble said.

The audio below is HRA Director Jason Hale sharing an update on the situation involving the Harborview Apartments during the Oct. 11 meeting.