City has long history of sweetheart deals with A & L

Robert Boone

A & L Properties, a partnership of Lee Anderson and Rob Link, has been one of Duluth’s most prolific commercial construction companies and landlords for the last 20 years. A & L built the Technology Village, Wieland Block, St. Luke’s Lakewalk Clinic and many other properties.  A & L has historically had the benefit of preferred treatment by the City of Duluth, most notably during Mayor Gary Doty’s administration.

??The Phoenix Building burned at the corner of 4th Avenue West and Superior Street in December of 1994. When the owners failed to raze the building,  the city stepped in, (concerned about having an eyesore downtown) demolished the burned out shell, and built a new building (now Starbucks) at a cost of $3.2 million. Later, The Reader revealed that the city then turned around and sold it to A & L for $267,000;  without offering the property to anyone else. ??

October 15, 1998, The Reader reported ?that Assistant City Attorney Cynthia ?Albright helped try to cover-up the? illegal demolition of historic buildings ?(in violation of court orders) during?construction of the Technology ?Village (then Soft Center).

??March 16, 2000, a Reader investigation ?documented seven newsworthy stories regarding A & L’s  ?construction of the Technology Village (including illegal ?demolition above), bid rigging (also involving the city) and ?more. We were able to prove that the Duluth News Tribune ?knew about four of them, and chose not to cover them. ?Coincidentally DNT Publisher, Mary Jacobus, was married to?A & L marketing director and leasing agent, Dean Jacobus. ?When The Reader asked Publisher Jacobus about her conflicts ?of interest she brushed the questions aside. We then asked ?The Columbia School of Journalism, the Society of Professional?Journalists, and Knight Ridder, all of whom were rather?unimpressed. Knight Ridder quickly transferred Jacobus out ?of town. ??

Shortly thereafter, the Electric Fetus began planning a ?remodeling facelift. They were disappointed to discover that ?the City of Duluth would not allow them to utilize the ?storefront remodeling loan program.  City planner, ?Mike Conlan, arrogantly explained that Duluth would rather ?have A & L buy their building so it could connect with the ?future Wieland Block development.  The Electric Fetus went ?ahead without city help; and John Ramos castigated Conlan’s?performance in the January 11, 2001 Reader.