Through the power of our democracy, we can claim our right to help shape policies and to nurture what is important to each of us individually. Lost in the discussion of how to move our community forward is the fact that the historic fabric of our city is currently being dismantled.
During the past few years, Duluth’s history has systematically been eroded piece by piece at a pace not seen since the era of Urban Renewal in the 1960s. Then we lost architectural gems like the Spalding Hotel and the Lyceum Theatre. While our area landfills reach capacity, we continue to allow well-built structures to be razed with little regard to the embodied resources these buildings hold: concrete that’s already poured, stone cut from our local quarries, old growth timber and lumber from our virgin forests, and countless years of labor.
Already we’ve allowed countless landmarks like the Morgan Park High School to be demolished without enough consideration of potential reuse.
Slated for demolition next is the Pastoret Terrace Building, designed by Oliver Traphagen, of which the city has taken possession without thoroughly enough vetting and nurturing development proposals before coming to the decision.
We’re also right now allowing a health care corporation dismantle major portions of our historic hillside. Unfortunately, our current administration has allowed this to occur, failing to address the 33 surface lots this corporation already has created and the multiple structures the corporation will be abandoning in lieu of this new facility being built.
We are at a turning point in the future of our beautiful city. We can continue to build more bike trails and pour our dollars into one neighborhood or we can choose to plan and nurture a broader sense of place and community — which includes all aspects of development and all areas of our city.
It’s time to ask our local leaders truly important questions: How will future developments impact the historic fabric of our city? How can we be more diversified in pursuing smart developments, including the preservation of the places and buildings that give our city the character people want? How will future generations be impacted by what we do today?
I encourage everyone to consider how our city can be better prepared for the inevitable climate warming and possible migration of people to our area, as cited in recent articles by Reuters and the New York Times. I urge everyone to ask the tough question of how we preserve the iconic structures of our city. I implore everyone to be more frugal in efforts to keep demolition from filling our landfills.
We live in a beautiful, unique city. People travel here from all over to see one of the world’s most significant lakes and to enjoy the history we possess. That includes a rich history of industry, a plethora of historic structures, and a sense of place truly unique to us and our city.
Please help preserve all we have and hold our elected officials accountable for concerted development, measured growth, and planning that includes our entire city for today and tomorrow.
Mike Poupore is president of the Duluth Preservation Alliance.