Our local news media has, so far, missed an opportunity to highlight an inspiring life that has benefitted Duluthians in so many ways.
Dick Loraas died on March 9. Educated as a city planner, he was much more. His specialness was defined by the diverse ways he helped make Duluth a better city. He did it while skillfully working with both public and private sectors.
As a department head at City Hall, he introduced the concept of business development working in consort with traditional city planning. This contributed greatly to successes in projects like the planning and construction of I-35, Canal Park, and the Lakewalk, each burdened with their own sea of complexity.
Loraas later extended his acumen as a business developer at the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. And, as a leader at the private Greater Downtown Council, he helped us rise above the national trend of central business district abandonment.
Widening his skills in business development, Dick moved on as a banker at Norwest Bank (now Wells Fargo). One of his many local projects was the bank’s private financing of the schooner Victory Chimes. Docked behind the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, the Victory Chimes gave focus to the possibilities regarding our major natural advantage: our awe-inspiring lake. So began the realization of Duluth’s downtown waterfront renewal.
After Dick retired, I believe he began his most fulfilling venture as one of the founders of the Essentia Duluth Heritage Center. The center effectively promotes guiding values for youth: hard work, integrity, teamwork, honor, sportsmanship, courage, commitment, and dedication. Working as president and CEO of the center, Dick, along with others, somehow created the highly successful youth center with an impressive 85% of the $20 million construction cost being privately funded.
The most important thing a city leader can do is to help expand a community’s civic pride and confidence. Dick Loraas did that very thing.
Jerry Kimball is a retired city planner for the city of Duluth. He led the city's Physical Planning Division for 26 years.