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Boreal Community Media

Dockside and North House make steady progress

Feb 16, 2018 08:09AM ● By Editor
North House Folk School Executive Director Greg Wright poses next to the sign advertising the ever-growing folk school, which is looking for more space to expand into. Photo courtesy of North House

Staff Repot from The County News Herald - February 16, 2018

Early this week (Feb. 12- 17), North House Folk School and the Dockside Fish Market confirmed that their efforts to complete the hand-off of the Dockside property continue to move steadily forward. “When I look back at the past ten months it is hard to believe all the ground we have covered,” said Greg Wright, executive director of North House. “Since that first day when Harley and Shele asked if we would like to sit down to talk, we have shared more than one cup of coffee. Their willingness to work together and move forward on a timeline that worked with our planning, funders, and partners has been key.” 

Plans for the potential acquisition of the Dockside property by North House emerged last December. At that time, North House was working with the EDA as part of submitting a grant to secure funding from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) to support the project. On January 24, 2018, the IRRRB formally approved the full grant proposal of $200,000. Wright confirmed, “While a project like this has multiple partners, it is clear that the great news we received in late January is a big step forward.”

Information in the IRRRB meeting packet makes various aspects of the purchase clear. The acquisition is estimated to be $1.3 million. North House plans to invest an additional $400,000 over the next three years in building maintenance, modest remodeling, staffing additions and master planning. Other partners listed as potential funders for the project include the Cargill Foundation, Blandin Foundation, Northland Foundation and individual donors. “Numerous key pieces are in place; other conversations are still under way,” Wright noted.

Both North House and Harley/Shele Toftey have been investing significant energy addressing two key questions that frequently arise: What will happen to the fish market, and what will happen to the fishing? Wright noted, “North House’s first goal is to lease the restaurant to an experienced business owner who will keep the Dockside tradition moving forward. Our second goal is to have a local commercial fisherman active in the Grand Marais harbor. Positive conversations are under way on both fronts, and we are hopeful. It would be great to continue having both of these important local businesses thriving.”

Should the purchase take place, North House plans to launch a yearlong Master Planning process that will focus on envisioning North House’s evolution in the coming decade. Wright noted, “Clearly, our first task is to complete the final steps that will make the hand-off possible. But ultimately this is just the start of the journey. After that, North House will begin the important task of looking forward, connecting with stakeholders who believe in the future of North House. Our community, our students, our instructors, our supporters— North House has thrived thanks to the involvement of many, and in the years ahead this clearly needs to continue to be true.”