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Dick Palmer: Taking another look seems fair

The Duluth City Council's decision to keep avenues of communication open as final plans for the all important development of Duluth's waterfront are nearing completion makes some sense, even though there is obviously some danger connected with th...

The Duluth City Council's decision to keep avenues of communication open as final plans for the all important development of Duluth's waterfront are nearing completion makes some sense, even though there is obviously some danger connected with the renewed debate that will ensue. At stake is a strong signal affecting the future, and, I might add, a lasting image of Duluth's waterfront potential, a potential that is long overdue in concept and certainly badly needed as this area heads into the 21st century on a new course not affiliated with smokestacks, serious manufacturing potential and a fuzzy image of long range shipping opportunities here at the Head of the Lakes.

Fuzzy may be an oversimplification, but there are challenges ahead. In spite of the continuing harangue from too many "objectionists" in our midst, Duluth has indeed come a long way in sorting out a variety of potential uses for Duluth's waterfront, an obvious showcase with fantastic opportunity heralding long-lasting benefits to our area.

My point here is that nearly 50 years ago, civic leaders, who had guts, determination and solid community energy, pushed for the cleanup of the downtown waterfront. The scrap business was moved to other locations, along with the railroad tracks. The arena-auditorium was built and subsequently enhanced time and time again.

In the beginning, the arena-auditorium (DECC) was dubbed a "white elephant," surely destined to destroy the tax base of this area. That didn't happen, and the DECC became the catalyst for a whole new image of Duluth. Because of the benefits of this modern facility, others in the community looked at the waterfront, many for the first time.

When the freeway meandered through our city, wiping out whole neighborhoods in the western sections of Duluth, a community vision took hold. The freeway development through downtown unto 26th Avenue East took on a whole new unique image, a carefully designed effort, including a series of tunnels that made continued growth on the waterfront more accessible. Take, for example, the Duluth Rose Garden, perched on top of the freeway tunnels. Because of downtown revitalization, South First Avenue East shed its slum landlord and bowery motif and a whole new retail and tourist related industry developed. Then came enhancements to Bayfront Festival Park and now, what to do with a 25-acre site owned by the Duluth Economic Development Authority (DEDA) is the issue on the table.

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All this brings up the obvious conclusion. Much has taken place in recent years to focus on an image for Duluth that will stem the tides of evolution. Duluth is indeed a unique community filled to the brim with opportunity. Now, some final planning for a section of the waterfront that needs a carefully engineered development plan is on the table. I can see some retail in the area, limited housing, perhaps a marina for small watercraft and certainly a mix of green space that is germane to this area of the country.

What I fear is the onslaught of those "againsters" with doom and gloom as their goal using every method possible to sabotage the reality of careful, positive planning.

Duluth has had enough of the doom and gloom through the years. Look around folks; most of our state is growing while northeastern Minnesota continues to decline.

Image, opportunity and pride are the ingredients as Duluth's finest hours are just around the corner.

Yes, your comments are encouraged.

Dick Palmer is the former editor and publisher of the Budgeteer News. He may be reached by telephone at 729-6470 or by e-mail at rpalmer@duluth.com .

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