Jodi Harpstead leaned on the kitchen counter, looking toward a newly furnished living room and a view toward Jefferson Street.
"Beats sleeping under a bridge," the CEO of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota said.
Within weeks, a formerly homeless young person will be living in the attractive, squeaky-clean one-bedroom apartment in the Center for Changing Lives, the nonprofit's long-desired building for youth-centered programs and housing in the 1400 block of East Superior Street.
Thursday was devoted to a grand opening ceremony and private tours of the 27,000-square-foot, $9.1 million facility, just over 13 months after a groundbreaking took place at the same site.
The public's chance to get a look inside will take place with open houses on Sunday and Monday. It's the only chance, said Jacqueline Nelson, LSS marketing director, because once young people are living on the building's second and third floors, the general public won't have access.
That will happen quickly. Staff will start coming into their new workplaces on the first floor right away, Harpstead said.
Ten youth from the cramped Renaissance space downtown will moved into their new digs on the third floor on June 19, said Lynn Gerlach-Collard, program manager for Renaissance and street outreach.
The group will visit the facility on Monday to decide which bedrooms they want, Gerlach-Collard said. The group-home-style facility has a large kitchen, spacious living area and private bedrooms.
"It's been contagious," she said. "Everybody is very, very excited about it."
Applications for the 10 apartments on the second floor — designed for tenants aged 18-23 — will be accepted beginning as soon as Friday, Harpstead said.
"We expect to fill them very fast because of the need for affordable housing everywhere," she said.
But the scope of work happening from the building will be much broader than the housing on the second and third floors, Harpstead said, with programs such as a teen health center, truancy action project and street outreach based there.
"We serve 880 young people every year in Duluth," Harpstead said. "Most of them will be in and out of this (first) floor."
Along with the grand opening, LSS launched a campaign on Thursday to collect 500 ideas for ending youth homelessness in Duluth. People attending the open houses will be invited to jot down their ideas on colored note paper and tape them to poster boards placed in various places throughout the building. The campaign also has its own social media identity: #LSSYouth500Ideas.