A cruel injustice, one fueled by misinformation and misunderstanding, is occurring within our beloved community. This injustice has been fueled by community members who inherently dislike private developers and by those who oppose most types of land development -- especially private development along the shores of Gitche Gumee, the greatest of the Great Lakes.
Yet, it is a group of private developers and their private development that will make approximately 1,000 feet of Lake Superior shoreline between 23rd Avenue East and 26th Avenue East accessible and available to the public. It is the ownership of The Ledges, formerly known as the Lakewalk Townhomes, who had the vision, the determination, took the financial risk and built the development that has made possible the proposed extension of the Lakewalk. It is this private development that will transition private, difficult-to-access lakefront into a public Lakewalk. This Lakewalk will soon be placed, as anticipated, in front of these tastefully built lake homes that so gracefully settle next to the beautiful jutting banks of Lake Superior rock.
A recent editorial in the Duluth News Tribune stated: "Residents and renters of the townhomes have balked at the prospect of a public walkway outside the windows that provide them their magnificent view." This statement is unfair and not true. All of the buyers of The Ledges townhomes were informed of the future Lakewalk. Each owner anticipated, and now welcomes, a continuous walk along Lake Superior's bank, starting in Canal Park and passing in front of The Ledges.
All of its units are privately owned; only one unit is occupied by renters. Understandably, these owners hope that proper engineering occurs so the walk is stabilized to prevent erosion, is safe and the rebar and concrete the city previously placed on the premises is cleaned up as promised.
Building The Ledges was an ambitious, bold and noble effort.
Numerous pieces of land had to be purchased -- some sold at prices in excess of their estimated market value. Private streets had to be built, and privately maintained and plowed. Utilities were brought in at the developer's expense, and a large sewage holding tank was privately funded.
The assemblage of land for The Ledges took dozens of years. The acquired properties included homes in disrepair with numerous code violations, metal pole buildings and acres of property that were zoned for manufacturing. Industrial equipment, warehouses, metal workshops and garbage trucks littered the property. Hidden behind this industrial blight was the pristine Lake Superior shoreline. Yet, few community members were aware of the majestic rock shelves jutting into the lake. Fewer still had access to this private shoreline.
Thankfully, for all of us, the development partners who transformed this property had the vision to remove the industrial buildings, replace them with low-profile and environmentally sensitive housing and integrate this new privately built neighborhood alongside the Lakewalk.
This triumphant transition from an industrial site to a gracious, welcoming neighborhood was paid for by the developers -- at no expense to the public.
The townhomes now generate a substantial tax base that will permanently fund the city and county's operations.
Additionally, building this lovely neighborhood created construction jobs for workers in our community for several years.
When the Lakewalk extension is built in front of The Ledges neighborhood it will be because of -- and not in spite of -- The Ledges' developers and homeowners.
These are the very people who had the Lakewalk as their vision for this neighborhood, the very people who ought to be applauded by our community and not vilified as they are by some.
Thanks to these developers and homeowners, the pristine shoreline beauty of the rock ledges will remain accessible to the public, and we will all enjoy much-improved access to this magnificent work of nature: the ledges of Lake Superior.
This private development has provided our community a great public purpose. I, for one, say thank you. I hope you will join me in doing the same; our thanks are well earned and long overdue.
David Ross is the president and CEO of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at 740-3751 or firstname.lastname@example.org.