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Business North - Around The Region - Duluth & Superior Newspaper
Canal Park proposal met with mixed emotions
A controversial plan to revamp part of Duluth’s waterfront remained contentious
during a November presentation by Mayor Don Ness.
Expensive ongoing infrastructure repairs plus the need to remove underwater contaminants justify his proposal to fill Minnesota Slip and move the S.S. William A. Irvin and commercial anglers upstream, Ness told a Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce event co-sponsored by the Duluth News Tribune.
While some in the business community support his suggestion, others say it would diminish the waterfront experience for people who visit the city.
“The idea with this vision was to take a big step forward and get people thinking outside of the box,” Ness said, “getting to a point where we solve some problems and save residents of Duluth a significant amount of money.”
Ongoing problems near Minnesota Slip include the development of sink holes (caused by deteriorating seawalls) near a sidewalk parallel to the Irvin, and
breakdowns of the pedestrian bridge that crosses the slip. Incremental repairs, the mayor said, are expensive and aren’t permanent.
Looking at another aspect of the proposed project, Ness said 275 parking spots could be created by filling in Minnesota Slip and moving boats upstream,
likely to a new marina at Pier B, where a new hotel is proposed.
The city owns land on the west side of the slip. Property on the east is privately
held. Ness said he’s had informal talks with stakeholders, including interests representing the Meierhoff family and Grandma’s Restaurant Co.
“It is difficult and in some ways it can be frustrating,” the mayor said. “I get it. I understand why folks have to advocate for their interests. But when it gets to
the point where they’re working against the plan because it benefits somebody
else, that’s when it gets discouraging – or when the concerns become so narrow that it’s essentially shutting down a project or even the prospects of addressing a lot of big problems.
“…Sometimes, the interests get pretty small and petty in my mind,” Ness added. “That can be frustrating for me, but it’s also an important part of this process, and the plan will be better in the end.”
Some business owners said the problems Ness cited are being exaggerated.
“I don’t think very many tourists are unhappy when the blue bridge goes up. On the contrary, when the bridges goes up, tourists literally run there to see what happens,” said Michael Bolen, owner of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Canal Park. “I don’t think tourists come to Duluth to look at parking lots. They come to Duluth to look at water. We have built a tourism industry on that. I’ve never not found a parking place in the 12 years I’ve been there. I think the concern about parking is overrated. The walkway is fantastic. Filling in the slip would damage the tourist experience. I think you’re making a mistake.”
Dale Lewis, president of Park State Bank, also said parking is usually available. A former member of the Duluth Economic Development Authority, she cited a lesson she once learned at a seminar about waterfront development.
“Every foot of waterfront is precious and people want to be by the water. People come to see the ships, not to see other tourists,” Lewis said.Previous Around the Region Articles:
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