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Marina is latest step in AMI’s growing waterfront footprint
Photo: Connors Port Cove Marina is centrally located and offers stunning vistas. BusinessNorth photo
After designing marinas for years, AMI Consulting Engineers is no stranger to waterfront development. But the company’s latest project, a 40-slip marina beneath the Blatnik Bridge in Superior, is different. AMI isn’t just the designer, but also the owner.
Last winter’s solidly frozen harbor provided excellent conditions for AMI to install a break wall, pilings and dock platforms for Connors Point Cove Marina. The new facility will house AMI’s boats, provide slips for company employees and offer leased dock space for recreational boaters.
Because marine engineering is a specialty for AMI, the company moved its headquarters to Connors Point in 2010. The narrow peninsula on Superior Bay is centrally located along the working waterfront. AMI founders Chad Scott and Craig Jouppi wanted to be as close as possible to their commercial customers, which need services ranging from underwater inspections to submerged construction.
“This improves our overall efficiency as a company. For our business needs, it really was a great spot,” explained Scott, a former U.S. Marine Corps diver and commercially trained deep-sea diver.
The goal is not to compete with Superior’s Barker’s Island Marina, which caters to owners of yachts and sailboats. With a depth of six feet, 32-foot-long docks and single 30-amp electrical service, it’s anticipated most customers will be owners of smaller motorboats.
“We’ll offer safe and secure docks for people who don’t want to launch their boat every time they fish – who want to avoid that hassle. This will have a small boating community feel – something a little more private with a lot of green space – much like a park,” Scott said.
Older residents of the Twin Ports will recognize the site with different eyes than young persons. It once served as a coal dock – one of many where eastern U.S. coal was unloaded from vessels and transferred to rail for distribution throughout the Midwest.
The dock was adjacent to Main Street, which served as the approach to the Interstate Bridge, the structure that predated the Blatnik (also called the High Bridge) to connect Superior’s North End with Garfield Avenue in Duluth. On the Duluth side, part of that old wooden bridge remains standing as a public fishing pier.
Today, the coal docks have been replaced by structures owned or occupied by Genesis, Exodus, Field Logic, Stella- Jones, Graymont, Elkhorn and other industrial firms – all of which enjoy a birds-eye view of Minnesota Point. In past years, Superior city councilors considered developing a campground in the same general area on Connors Point.
“I do think there is a market for the small boat community,” Scott said. “I think there will be more marinas developed here over time.”
Connors Point Cove Marina isn’t the only development AMI has in mind for the site.
“Eventually, we’ll be adding heated storage and cold storage in support of the marina,” said Jouppi, a registered professional and structural engineer. It likely will be constructed across Main Street from AMI’s office. The partners also hope to add another office building on the bay side. It would be constructed adjacent to AMI, with a central elevator tower added to serve both structures.
“We have enough space to add another 12,000 square feet in a second building, and our original building was constructed so we can add a third floor. We will build to suit,” Scott said.
The demand for marine engineering services is growing rapidly for AMI – so much so that it launched a spinoff firm, Nordic Underwater Services, on Jan. 1, 2013.
“It evolved from AMI because we had such high demand for underwater construction services. We were doing some of those small projects out of AMI group but because there were so many, we decided to break it off into its own entity,” Scott said. For the coming season, Nordic’s schedule is fully booked.
To say the work is specialized would be an understatement. Nordic’s services include underwater welding and burning, concrete, drilling and inspection work on structures including docks, bridges and dams.
“Any construction you would do topside we can do underwater, from wood to concrete to steel,” Scott said. “We do deep sea, hard hat diving, not scuba diving, which is a recreational activity.”
The work not only requires special skills, but additional college-level training to learn commercial diving and safety practices. Nordic employs four engineers and one civil technician who are commercial divers. It also retains trade commercial divers who provide underwater construction services on contract.
About half of Nordic’s work is in the Duluth-Superior harbor, where the firm is involved in projects including the Duluth Seaway Port Authority’s ‘C’ and ‘D’ dock improvements, the Pier B development and Fraser Shipyards piling replacements.
Construction isn’t the only specialty. In the past, Scott was involved in raising a sunken barge, and he also discovered and helped find ways to address the harbor’s destructive corrosion problem. The firm also is involved in addressing ways to eliminate invasive species in ballast water.
Most of the division’s growth, however, is being driven by projects outside of the region, particularly along navigable river systems and in coastal areas, Jouppi said. Two projects are in the Caribbean – a new port and harbor project in Haiti and a port project in Jamaica.
Although the work is far away, it still serves the parent firm and its employees, who play lead roles in the distant projects.
Closer to home, AMI will evaluate the success of its shallow-water marina before deciding whether to pursue a followup venture. The company has additional holdings on the bay side of its office that could be developed into a deeper marina. While the project isn’t a certainty, Scott and Jouppi look forward to the potential challenge.
“We like odd things, difficult projects,” Jouppi said. “Doing the same thing over and over isn’t particularly interesting.”Previous BusinessNorth Exclusives Articles:
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