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Superior neighbors raise concerns about proposed waterfront hotel

Artist’s rendering of the Hampton Inn & Suites hotel proposed for Superior’s waterfront

Plans are moving forward for a $9 million hotel on Superior’s waterfront.

But not everyone is happy with the proposal by ZMC Hotels to build a Hampton Inn & Suites on city-owned land between Perkins and the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center.

For Bonnie Germann, who lives on East Third Street near Barker’s Island, it will mean her guests will no longer see the city lights from across the bay in Duluth.

Matt Miller of East Second Street said he paid more for his home because of the view of the harbor out his front window, a view he expects to lose once the hotel is built.

“This is going to financially impact me and my family,” Miller told city councilors at a recent hearing.

“My family moved here in 1976,” said Susan Chandler. “My father brought us from Nebraska and said, ‘This is God’s country up here because of Lake Superior.’”

Chandler said her parents bought the house across from Perkins for its “gorgeous view” of the bay and Lake Superior.

She said it’s a mystery why a 75-room hotel is needed across from her mother’s home when the Days Inn in the area is only half-full in the winter months, and a building that big will only make parking issues there worse.

But it is the location that is a draw for Duluth-based ZMC Hotels, which also owns the Bridgeview in Superior.

John Goldfine, ZMC vice chairman, said the company has acquired property near the Bridgeview, but it is not an ideal location for a hotel.

“We’ve wanted to build another hotel here,” Goldfine said. “This is a great location.”

After all, operating the Inn on Lake Superior, Goldfine said he sees the Enbridge trucks lined up in Canal Park, and this is an opportunity to bring some of that business to Superior.

“We believe in this project,” said CEO Ken Goldfine.

“We love the location; we know there are a couple of issues to work through,” said Jon Driscoll, ZMC’s chief operating officer. “Anybody that drives through this town has to drive past this location in order to get to the other side.”

Among the issues to work through are the sightline issues area residents are concerned about, and parking, Driscoll said. He said the company’s goal is to be good neighbors and work through those concerns.

City staff is working on the parking issue, and some of that could end up on the other side of Marina Drive, said Jason Serck, Superior’s director of economic development, port and planning. He said company and city officials are working with Perkins and the Bong Center board to solve some of those issues.

Mayor Bruce Hagen said planning to move Harborview Park to the other side of Marina Drive, behind the veterans memorial on East Second Street, is underway.

Todd Torvinen, the company’s chief financial officer, said they are in the planning stages for a 3½- to 4½-story hotel, however, the goal is to start construction in the fall with plans to open next summer.

On Tuesday, the City Council approved the site plan for the hotel and referred discussion of creating a tax-increment district to the Plan Commission. On Wednesday, the commission approved starting the process to create the special taxing district and set a public hearing.

Upcoming public hearings for the project include the TIF hearing at 3 p.m. July 21, and a hearing on the site plan at 2 p.m. July 30 before the city’s Redevelopment Authority. Both hearings take place at the Government Center, 1316 N. 14th St.

Germann said she is planning to attend the public hearings to make her concerns known. However, she’s skeptical it will change anything.

“It makes me mad,” Germann said.

“I dare say, that if this project were going to go up in front of the mayor’s house, he would be sitting out here in my seat, complaining,” Chandler said.