North House Folk School has purchased this corner lot in Grand Marais 10-22-21
Submitted photo

North House purchases more property in Grand Marais

There has been no official announcement from the North House Folk School in Grand Marais about the purchase of a nearby parcel of land in Grand Marais. However, when WTIP Community Radio learned of this recent real estate transaction and reached out to North House, the school’s Executive Director Greg Wright confirmed that the school had purchased land near the school’s waterfront campus.

The parcel is across Highway 61 from the North House main campus and is west of the “Green Building,” the one-time U.S. Forest Service building on the upper side of the road. Part of the lot is undeveloped and the upper portion was cleared when an old house was removed.

WTIP sat down with North House Director Wright and asked some questions about the purchase, namely, how can the nonprofit school afford to buy land in downtown Grand Marais? Wright expressed appreciation to the property owner, Bruce Leng, who Wright said, supports the work of North House Folk School. Leng wanted to help North House in its master planning efforts and offered the property at below market value, at $275,000.*

Wright said the purchase was possible in part by revenue received when the Folk School sold a small piece of property to the Angry Trout Café. That sale allows the Angry Trout to build a small addition and become a year-round restaurant, something that demonstrates the school’s efforts to work with partners in the neighborhood.

The other funds came from generous donors who support the North House Folk School mission, said Wright.

Another concern for some is the fact that the purchase of the land by a nonprofit removes a commercial lot in Grand Marais from the tax rolls. Wright acknowledges that fact but adds that North House does pay some property taxes. The North House Folk School spaces used by North Shore Title, The Fisherman’s Daughter, and North Superior Fisheries are not tax-exempt.

Wright further explained that because North House is a nonprofit such as universities, community colleges and churches, it must bring other value to the community. The North House director is passionate about that and easily lists the many education programs available to community members. He cites the free school programs for all 3rd – 5th-grade students in Cook County; the 25 percent tuition discount for Cook County residents; the timber frame projects in partnership with Cook County High School and more as things that North House brings to the community.

There have been questions in the past about the long-ago use of the land by the Anishinabe people. There are also concerns that there are possible burial sites at the location. Wright noted that North House is very cognizant of that. Wright has reached out to the Minnesota State Archeologist’s Office for assistance before any construction begins.

Wright also extended thanks to Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribal Chair Bob Deschampe and the Tribal Council for their advice and continued guidance.

Wright stressed that there are no specific plans for the parcel yet, but said there are key needs that must be addressed, such as student parking, storage space for drying firewood/extra timbers, and living space for guest instructors. The folk school is just beginning the process of how the land will be used.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence joined Director Greg Wright on campus to talk about all this. Here’s their conversation.

* This article was edited on Oct. 25 to accurately report the property sale price. See related information here.