Minnesota's U.S. Attorney's Office is seeking the forfeiture of a downtown Duluth building that housed a head shop long at the center of local controversy.
Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson was recently convicted on multiple charges related to the sale of synthetic drugs from his Duluth shop, which is now closed. The Duluth News Tribune reported Sunday that neighboring business owners hope to see the property taken out of his hands for good.
Mark Fredrickson, who owns a printing business next door, says the store's clientele dragged down the block for years.
"How can you hope for a decent return on investment when you're next door to something like that?" Fredrickson said. "You'd have been a fool to make any significant investment."
Carlson's attorney is seeking a new trial. He told the newspaper he is also preparing a response to the government's forfeiture request, but declined to comment further.
Prosecutors are seeking about $6.5 million that Carlson made on the sale of products. Federal agents seized about $3 million in cash, vehicles and merchandize during a July 2012 raid on the shop, and are now seeking other assets including the building to make up the difference. That includes a vacation property Carlson owns in Mexico.
Kristi Stokes, president of Duluth's Greater Downtown Council, said other business owners in the area of Carlson's building share Fredrickson's view.
Sharla Gardner, a Duluth city councilwoman, said new ownership could help larger efforts underway to rejuvenate downtown Duluth, which has been troubled by crime and a bad reputation for years even as the nearby Lake Superior shorefront has been a major tourist draw.
Lake Place, a small park downtown, was once a popular destination but in recent years became known as a hangout for Last Place on Earth customers, Gardner said.
"No one wants to count their chickens yet. We'll have to wait and see what happens. But I know that people are already talking about fixing up the area," Gardner said.