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Views on Downtown Tourism: NorShor to spur housing, tourism in downtown Duluth

The long-anticipated $30.5 million renovation of the NorShor Theatre in downtown Duluth began in June and is expected to be completed by December 2017. The new NorShor will be an anchor in Duluth’s newly designated Historic Arts and Theater District, or HART District. The theater and the district will be be transformative for Duluth and downtown, Mayor Emily Larson and Duluth Economic Development Authority Executive Director Heather Rand opined during an interview in September with News Tribune editorial board members.

‘You’re going to see … a refresh of the retail’

“I really believe what you’re going to see in that HART District is a refresh of the retail along the street. We’re looking forward to seeing what that might look like. But I do think that we’ll bring substantial new traffic to the area. We’re taking a look right now at traffic patterns and parking and assessing that for downtown. ...

“We’re also pursuing a market study for housing in downtown with the Greater Downtown Council, partnering with them, because I am receiving quite a number of phone calls from developers who are taking a look at some downtown building and are looking at doing a conversion of at least the upper floors to housing. You’ve seen that trend start over the last 10 or 15 years. I feel like it’s really starting to get some momentum now (in Duluth, too). But with that comes the issue of parking. That’s a place where a city traditionally will take a leadership position to advance redevelopment in a downtown.”

DEDA Executive Director Heather Rand

‘People want to be where things are happening’

“The NorShor will spur a lot of housing. That’s actually what I see. In the short term, it’ll be retail, but people want to be where things are happening. They want to be (in places that are) walkable. And when you see there’s something vibrant going on, you want to be around it. So I think (the NorShor renovation) will help. … (We’ve had) almost

$300 million in investment in the downtown in the last few years alone, and that’s really a lot. It’ll really pay off.”

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson