We have heard the faint rumbling of the bulldozers and jack hammers in the distance for a while. This spring, however, the long-awaited Superior Street revitalization will be in high gear. So what does that mean for the summer tourism influx, local traffic patterns and businesses affected?
As part of their public awareness campaign, the city of Duluth is creating a newsletter and website called “Word on the Street” (superiorstreet.org) to keep everyone informed of the progress. Press releases and weekly newsletters will give information on
road closures, parking and other project related updates.
The website summarizes the plan: “Over the span of three construction seasons, segments of Superior Street will be carefully revitalized with improved utilities providing reliable services to current and future generations of customers and beautified streetscapes with inviting common public spaces.”
The project will be done in sections over three years (April or May to October) beginning this year with Seventh Avenue West to the West side of the Third Avenue West intersection; in 2019, Fourth Avenue East to east side of the Lake Avenue intersection; and in 2020, Lake Avenue to Third Avenue West (includes both intersections).
The plan is to completely finish a third each summer so everyone can see what the final project will look like when all sections are completed. Pakou Ly, Public Information Coordinator for the city of Duluth, said, “It will be fun to see the excitement build as each phase gets completed.”
“We are very aware that we need to work with all of our partners on this project to minimize the impact of the construction. Businesses will be open. We want to reach out with all of our tools to help them through the process,” Ly added.
Anna Tanski, President and CEO of Visit Duluth, said, “We are working together with the Greater Downtown Council, the city of Duluth, and businesses and hotels through websites, advertising and ties to promotions. We are all communicating so far in advance with consistent messages communicating through all of our channels.”
“We will continue to meet throughout the process to talk through concerns and deal with them as they come u,” she added. “It is more important than ever to support local businesses. People should use the Skywalk or walk that extra block to get to them.”
The Skywalk Clean and Safe team will be available to answer questions and even guide people to where they are going on the Skywalk, according to Kristi Stokes, president of the Greater Downtown Council. The group also plans to install good signage to direct people about how they can get to the businesses or buildings they are trying to find.
Sara Sarvela, owner of the Frame Corner and the building, has been designated “captain” of the Thirdrd Avenue block businesses. She will attend meetings and come back to share information with her fellow business people.
“We all must stay on the same page about using the same hashtags, sharing with each other, keeping lines of communication open. We also can serve as a good source for other businesses affected in the other sections to be done later. We hope to make it easier for them by letting them know what worked and didn’t work for us,” she said.
“Of course we all know the project needs to get done, and we are excited about how beautiful the renovation will make downtown. But I can’t say that being a retail business I am not nervous,” Sarvela added.
Businesses are looking for ways to minimize the damage to their bottom lines.
“I have been planning early by working on my web page and e-commerce. I am also planning on offering pickup and delivery services free of charge for those who may need it. I will be using social media to keep my customers informed,” she noted.
Business health and ease of access also have a strong connection to tourism. More tourists in the summer normally means an uptick for many area businesses. As one of the most significant tourism draws every summer, Grandma’s Marathon is also planning ahead to minimize the effects of the construction process.
Runners will temporarily be rerouting both for the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon course and the Grandma’s Marathon course during the next three years, with the timing contingent on the city and its construction plan.
The temporary reroute will be a small change that will result in participants cutting down to Michigan Street shortly after they cross Fourth Avenue East, and they will continue along Michigan Street until Fifth Avenue West, where they will reconnect with the original route.
“We will be educating our participants on the reroute via several different means leading up to Grandma’s Marathon weekend such as e-newsletters, social posts, emails, and through our website. We will also be including educational materials in participants’ race packets, and the course reroute details will be included in publications that will be available to everyone, such as the Weekend Activity Guide,” Mandi Peterson, Grandma’s Marathon marketing and public relations director, said. “We are always looking to provide the best overall race experience for our participants and spectators alike. Once the construction is complete, that section of the race course is going to be attractive and well suited for all Grandma’s Marathon race participants, spectators, affected businesses and for the entire Duluth community.”
The renovation will include sidewalk colors inspired by the North Shore. Bump-outs and benches will be used to distinguish gathering spaces — called "amenity zones. A 7 ½-foot pedestrian path next to buildings will feature a special sparkling texture. New trees, planters and lighting will help to give a welcoming ambiance for those using the walkways.
Tanski said the project will ultimately transform downtown.
“It is such a positive step forward. A functional, fresh and attractive downtown is one more way for the city to show all the wonderful things it has to offer.”