Column: Positive change in Downtown DuluthAs we move into a new season, there is a renewed sense of optimism in Duluth’s Downtown.
By: Kristi Stokes, Duluth News Tribune
As we move into a new season, there is a renewed sense of optimism in Duluth’s Downtown.
A recent survey conducted by the Greater Downtown Council finds significant changes in the way employees, business and property owners and residents view Downtown Duluth.
The survey asked individuals about any changes they have noticed in the central business district since July of this year. Forty-five percent of survey respondents say the Downtown has become more inviting and appealing and 39 percent say it feels safer. In addition, 30 percent of business owners say that retail sales have increased and nearly 40 percent say that pedestrian and walk-in traffic has increased.
Our businesses have worked so hard to be part of an energized movement in the core of our community. The businesses, along with countless property owners and the City of Duluth, have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Downtown Duluth, with more than $400 million in projects since 2005, with another $125 million planned for the near future. Stakeholders are passionate about our business district and they are playing a role in further strengthening it.
Yet, in the two years prior to this summer, many were feeling the frustration and suffering from the economic hardship related to mounting safety concerns and images portraying our beloved Downtown in a negative way.
Survey respondents specifically noted that the Downtown environment saw a positive change following the court-ordered temporary closure of Last Place on Earth. It has marked a turning point. It has been a renewal. It has brought us back to the way Downtown Duluth should be. Clean, safe and friendly.
And with last week’s “guilty” verdict in the federal case against the shop’s owner, our businesses are expressing a strong sense of relief.
As a neighborhood, we all become stronger when we work together to face any challenge or to explore any opportunity. We are proud of our independent businesses that offer support to one another and share a united voice through our organization. These businesses define our uniqueness and they offer a taste of our community’s culture. We are a destination for people to live, work, eat, shop and play.
And each of our stakeholders is a true ambassador of our city — they are proud of Duluth and they are invested here. These are the moms and dads cheering next to you at the soccer game, the business owners who help to provide jobs and pay taxes and the individuals who understand the importance of loyalty to their local vendors.
So, as you plan your next dinner, shopping trip or night of entertainment, invest in our local community and share in the renewed optimism that we are experiencing in Duluth’s Downtown.
Kristi Stokes is the president of the Greater Downtown Council in Duluth. Contact her at 727-8549 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.