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Grand Marais Art Colony makes offer to purchase former pharmacy building

The Grand Marais Art Colony has submitted an offer to purchase the former pharmacy building - Photo by Rhonda Silence, WTIP
The Grand Marais Art Colony has submitted an offer to purchase the former pharmacy building - Photo by Rhonda Silence, WTIP

When North Shore Pharmacy (formerly Arrowhead Pharmacy) in Grand Marais closed its doors on April 19, there was a lot of speculation about what would happen to the building at the corner of Highway 61 and First Avenue. There was some concern about the idea of a building sitting vacant in the middle of the city. It appears that will not be the case.

The building, owned by Mike and Laura Swartzwald, was listed for sale by Edina Realty in April.

At the Tuesday, May 14 meeting of the Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority (EDA), it was announced that the Grand Marais Art Colony had submitted an offer to purchase the building and the offer had been accepted.

Art Colony Executive Director Lyla Brown was at the EDA meeting to let the economic development authority know about its plans for expansion. Brown said things are going well at the Art Colony. She said the current facility houses glass, clay, and print-making areas, as well as office, store and gallery space.

“We are at 125 percent of our capacity,” Brown said.

EDA President Howard Hedstrom is also a member of the board of directors at the Grand Marais Art Colony and he also provided some insight. Hedstrom said the Art Colony is doing so well that it needs more studio space. And, he said the nonprofit would like to have more of a presence downtown, especially for its gallery/store.

Brown agreed, saying, “Not that many people walk up the hill to our building.”

EDA board members expressed excitement over the Art Colony’s expansion. Small Business Development Center Representative Pat Campanaro said she shares that enthusiasm, but noted that this would be a reduction in the tax rolls, with a nonprofit owning that building.

Hedstrom answered that only a portion of the building would be used by the Art Colony. He said the side of the building formerly used for pet supply sales (the Dog Hus) would likely be rented out. That space would still be designated as commercial and appropriate business taxes would be paid by the Art Colony.

Hedstrom also explained that the Art Colony had applied for funds for the purchase from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) through its “Recharge the Range” arts grants program.

Hedstrom asked his EDA colleagues if they would be willing to send a letter of support to the IRRRB for that grant. The EDA board agreed and a unanimous motion was passed to endorse the Grand Marais Art Colony grant submission.

Art Colony Executive Director Brown added that although the purchase offer had been accepted, there are still details to work out before the Art Colony takes possession of the former pharmacy building.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke with Howard Hedstrom about this possible purchase. Here’s that conversation.