The Duluth Seaway Port Authority is posed to have a banner week as it moves into new headquarters along Garfield Avenue starting March 4.
The Port Authority will be taking over the aptly named Seaway Building at 802 Garfield Ave. The agency has spent the past nearly two years operating temporarily at a location along West Superior Street in Lincoln Park.
“It’s extremely exciting,” Executive Director Deb DeLuca said. “How often do you get to do something like this? I think about this as the future Port Authority office — not just for now, but something that’s going to be a legacy for many years to come.”
The News Tribune met DeLuca, Chief Financial Officer Kevin Beardsley and spokesman Jayson Hron at the new site earlier this week for a tour.
Flush with a nearly $3.1 million in renovations — paid for, in part, through a $2.37 million grant from the state transportation department’s Minnesota Port Development Assistance Program — the new Port Authority facility revealed itself as an attractive and thoughtful showpiece. It's a place where deal-making can happen in ample conferencing space, or even a courtyard replete with fire pit and transportation-themed benches made, in part, from train rails.
Visitors to the new Port Authority will either take the stairs or elevator to the second floor of the roughly 13,000-square-foot building. They’ll be met by security doors and will be buzzed into the Port Authority’s offices.
Blond wood paneling and heavy wooden beams help define the space, an open layout with different sized offices rimming the perimeter.
Some accent walls are painted “strong blue” — the deep-blue shade that eliminates any of the green from the aqua color the Port Authority featured before a logo update last year.
“We wanted that feeling — the warmth of the wood and the colors that we have: blue, brown and gray,” DeLuca said. “It’s calming, but to me it’s energizing, too. In our really long winters, you need something a little bit brighter to carry you through.”
In 2018, the Port Authority vacated its original facility built in 1962 in order to make room for Altec, an ever-expanding manufacturer of electrical and telecommunications utility trucks that now inhabits the office building along Port Terminal Road.
“We tried to save as much of this as we could,” Beardsley said, slapping the sandy-colored Wrenshall (Minnesota) brick used in the 1907 reconstruction of what was then a school.
Built wooden in 1882, the school served the Rice’s Point residential neighborhood, which no longer exists. The school burned and was rebuilt the same year, according to the website Zenith City Press.
“Part of the joy of coming into a space like this and revitalizing it is that you can still feel the energy of the kids who were educated here, and the passionate part of the community that this building was,” Hron said. “We’re able to carry on that energy in a new way, but in the same space.”
The Port Authority bought the building in summer 2018 for $935,000, giving its eight tenants a year to relocate. The Port Authority then turned to DSGW for the architecture and interior design, and Johnson Wilson Constructors to do the work. Kraus-Anderson Construction Company handled the interior demolition, taking a building chopped into small spaces and hallways and opening it up. All the contractors are from Duluth.
Tall windows line the building and pour natural light into its interior. Shipping artifacts — a bollard (a short post used to moor boats), ship's wheel and anchor — greet visitors at the Garfield Avenue-facing entrance outside.
The first floor features two nearly identical tenant spaces the Port Authority will lease once it’s settled into the building. There’s also a exercise room and showers that are often found in modern offices.
A giant conference room on the first floor looks out on the courtyard, and will be the new meeting site for the Port Authority’s board of directors.
“It’ll be great for other events as well, like the (Duluth-Superior) Maritime Club,” Hron said. “We’ll be able to support all of those kinds of events and gatherings much more fully.”
The building is twice as large as anything the Port Authority has been in before. The port officials noted some empty offices and unidentified spaces, which mean room for growth.
The building features a library, with a ladder that runs along its stack, and two new natural-gas boilers to highlight an energy-efficient heating and cooling system.
From her office, DeLuca can see both into her adjoining conference room and out into the port, where gantry cranes are visible rising above the Clure Public Marine Terminal, owned and managed by the Port Authority.
“It was important to us to get back down to the working waterfront, and to be a part of it,” DeLuca said. “This just gives us energy. We’ll be making decisions where the action is happening.”