Our view: If only we all felt so good about DuluthGeorge Sherman is a real estate titan responsible for more than $2.8 billion of projects in a select handful of communities from Minnesota to Colorado.
George Sherman is a real estate titan responsible for more than $2.8 billion of projects in a select handful of communities from Minnesota to Colorado. He has converted abandoned eyesore downtown department stores, dilapidated apartment buildings and vacant parking lots into gorgeous condos and unbeatable office and commercial space, breathing new life into depressed neighborhoods.
Including in Duluth.
“We’re asked, ‘Why Duluth?’ ” Sherman said as the featured speaker at a Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce-sponsored luncheon Tuesday in the Kitchi Gammi Club. His answer was multi-pronged — and his view of Duluth and our future was encouraging, upbeat and far more positive than too many of us allow, even though we live here and are investing in our community every day.
Sherman’s grandparents moved to Duluth from southern Minnesota in 1915. His dad was one of the first doctors at the Duluth Clinic. His mother graduated from old Central in downtown, he said.
He grew up and lives still in the Twin Cities. In the late 1960s — he thought probably 1969 — Sherman and his family came to Duluth so he could compete in ski jumping at Chester Bowl and at least two other ski events. He’ll never forget changing clothes in the car and swapping gear after zipping between competitions. His family stayed in Hotel Duluth, the historic high-rise now known as Greysolon Plaza.
Because of his and his family’s history here and his positive memories of skiing here, Sherman made his first investment in Duluth in the 1990s: the brick, once-industrial building in Canal Park that’s home now to a Green Mill restaurant.
He has invested a total of about $200 million in Duluth to purchase, repair and renovate places such as Merritt school, Jefferson school, Irving school, Mount Royal apartments and Chateau apartments. He’s best known, of course, for building the $55 million Sheraton hotel on East Superior Street and for buying and renovating Greysolon for $8 million — including the room where his family stayed.
Sherman has been a valued, active partner with the city of Duluth, the nonprofit Local Initiatives Support Corp. and others to invest his time and treasure. Sure, he’s making money along the way, but when it comes to Duluth’s vitality, Sherman is a major player for whom we all can be grateful.
“When we make a commitment to a community we stick with it. … We’re in for the long haul,” Sherman said. “(And in Duluth), we’re not through yet.”
He has plans, he said, to invest $20 million to $40 million in Garfield Business Park, including a 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, about which he offered no other details.
Working with the Boys & Girls Club and others, he’ll renovate the old Lincoln elementary school, he said; he bought it last year from the Duluth school district for $1.
And in August he expects work to begin on the long-awaited renovation of Duluth’s landmark downtown NorShor Theatre, the future home of the Duluth Playhouse. As much as $22 million will be spent, including public money via tax credits and other sources and private money via fundraising and other investment.
“It really is a lot about your leadership here,” Sherman said, citing our active chamber, politicians who work cooperatively and our strong business community. It’s also Duluth’s great institutions, including the University of Minnesota Duluth, the College of St. Scholastica and our medical facilities, he continued. And the citizens of Duluth, who are educated, hardworking, dedicated, friendly and responsible for a long history of entrepreneurship.
“There’s a bright future for Duluth. We’re committed to it and I know you are, too,” he said.