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Will Woodland Avenue Bluestone development be the new Dinkytown?

Developers will be installing shops and restaurants along the side of Woodland Avenue in front of the Bluestone building. There is also a path connecting UMD to the Bluestone area being constructed. (Clara Hatcher photo)1 / 3
The living room of a two-bedroom apartment. Each living space is loft-style with hardwood floors and granite countertops. (Clara Hatcher photo)2 / 3
Old Woodland Middle School will be torn down to create more retail shop space. The view of Lake Superior will be visible from lakeside apartment windows. (Clara Hatcher photo)3 / 3

The phrase "expect the unexpected" has been said more than once when trying to figure out what the Woodland Avenue neighborhood is going to be like when all of the new developments are done.

One of the more popular developments seems to be the mini version of Dinkytown -- a small neighborhood near the University of Minnesota Minneapolis campus of shops and housing for residents and students -- that is being constructed next to the building that was previously Woodland Middle School.

It seems that the college students are having different ideas of what to expect than the developers of the shopping and apartment center.

"I feel like it may be a hot spot for college students, but it might also be some place that is just trying to draw people in," said prospective UMD freshman, Nicolas Derosier. "I definitely have mixed thoughts on the whole idea."

Derosier will be attending UMD, but living at his family home on Woodland Avenue, just a few blocks from the Mount Royal Shopping Center. He said that the added apartments and stores might just make everything more chaotic for those that live in the neighborhood, which could be a bit of a hassle.

"It is probably going to be one of those things where people either really love it or really hate it," continued Derosier. "I just want to know if it will live up to the expectations that everyone has for it right now."

Bret Gitar is currently a senior at UMD and studying economics. Gitar has lived on the edge of the UMD campus with his roommates Zach Gunderson, Nick Bremer and Peter Greenwood for more than a year and has had no troubles with the idea of the new Duluth Dinkytown so far.

"I've been to Dinkytown in the Cities only once, but it has a great atmosphere and I love the people there; I think that it has a really good draw to it," said Gitar. "If they are building it anything like the one in the Cities, even on a smaller scale, they are doing it right."

Gitar said that he liked that it will most likely bring more people to UMD and even the Duluth area to check out the new shops and apartments, but what he wanted most was an area for the college students that live in the Woodland area to go and hang out at.

"What I would really love to see is some kind of eatery that you can go to late Friday or Saturday nights that will still be open at 1 a.m.," said Gitar. "There needs to be something like that for the college folk, otherwise it will just be coffee shops, bookstores and big apartments."

Incoming UMD freshman, dorm resident and football player Nate Atkinson is also looking forward to the new buildings.

He joked that as long as they don't put another dental office in instead of a Chipotle, he will be okay with whatever shops are installed.

"I will be busy most days and nights with homework and football, but I think that it will end up being some place for students and people that live in the area to go and hang out," said Atkinson. "I hope to see some restaurants that we haven't seen before and don't already have in Duluth, and I would really like some kind of tech village to go and study or just hang out in."

Rather than going for a full-on college town, however, the developers are thinking more towards getting an upscale shopping and living center installed.

Developer Mark Lambert, of Stillwater, Minn., said that folks have to be careful about the word "Dinkytown" when describing what is going to be of the Woodland area in a few years.

"The real Dinkytown is much larger than what we are building. It has more character and history than what a new development can have," said Lambert. "We hope to have a mix of shops, residential and classroom space that will give multi-users a multipurpose feel."

Lambert stressed that though it is immediately adjacent to UMD, it will not be just for the college environment and students; it will be for the entire Woodland and Duluth area.

Shops will more than likely have a mix of local eateries and some users with recognizable names, though nothing has been signed yet. In all, 250 residential units will be built, and 400,000 square feet of retail space will be created along Woodland Avenue.

"We have a great neighborhood and a great traffic pattern and I would like to view it as a new development for everyone," said Lambert. "And in the end, it's not about what I want, it's about what businesses want to sign the leases."

Amenities for the Bluestone Apartment living include a yoga/pilates studio, game room, wood-floor finishes, granite countertops, soundproof music studios, a TV in every room and free WiFi for the building.

A two-bedroom apartment will start at $1,390 per month, an individual lease will be $695 per month and a four-bedroom, four-bathroom apartment with a lease split among four roommates will be $565 per month.

"We are not looking for just student housing, and we have already signed 70 percent of our available leases," said Lambert.

"Maybe it's not going to be a Dinkytown; maybe it's going to be a Bluestone."