Blog Downtown Greater Council

Transformational Year Ahead for Downtown Duluth

January 9, 2019

We are optimistic about a transformational year ahead of us in Downtown Duluth.  There is much excitement with growth, development and the pursuit of renewing the Special Service District. Read more from Kristi Stokes as reported for the DNT:


Greater Downtown Council President’s View


We are embarking on a year of historic change for downtown Duluth. That may sound like a grand statement, but the reality is we have several exciting projects that will forever change the landscape and skyline of our central business district.


When the Superior Street reconstruction project got underway earlier this year, we thought that was a transformational time for the core of our community. After all, crews were digging up and replacing infrastructure that dated back to the 1880s. Plus, we were revitalizing our main street, something that had not occurred since the mid-1980s. Now that the first phase of the project is complete, we know it has reenergized our district. Businesses can show a sense of pride in their surroundings. We no longer need to apologize for heaving bricks, broken bollards, rusting receptacles, and missing benches — at least in the first phase of construction. It is hoped this investment will further spark additional growth and investment by our business and property owners.


As we move into phase two of the Superior Street reconstruction, we have so many more transformational projects in the pipeline. We are not just looking down at what is taking place under Superior Street, we are looking up at the unprecedented development that will be occurring above the street, particularly in the Medical District.


In 2019, Essentia Health expects to break ground on the largest private investment in Duluth’s history. The $800 million project, spanning four years, includes a new hospital tower, clinic, and outpatient surgery center, as well as related infrastructure. It actually reduces Essentia’s overall footprint and opens up sites for additional development.


Meanwhile, St. Luke’s also is pursuing an expansion in the Medical District. At $300 million, the St. Luke’s project is slated to begin next year as well and span a 10-year timeframe. It includes such improvements as tripling the capacity of the emergency department, expanding the capacity of the cardiac cath labs, rebuilding a parking ramp, expanding outpatient services, and adding an inpatient tower.


This shows such a strong commitment from our stakeholders, and the projects will have a tremendous positive impact on our downtown neighborhood. Both of the medical facilities are hopeful they can be a catalyst for additional growth and development in the area.


It hasn’t taken long for that to happen. A 204-unit residential highrise already is proposed at 333 E. Superior St. This promises to be a home run for our community and our downtown. It would bring needed housing to our district and further assist with the recruitment and retention of employees in the Medical District and beyond. Plus, it is to include street-level retail space, which we hope will be filled by an urban market.


Just one of these projects would make me feel optimistic about the future of our downtown. But to have four occurring simultaneously would be unprecedented for our downtown.


To put it into perspective, we have seen nearly $1 billion of private investment in the Duluth Downtown Waterfront District over the last 12 years. Now, more than $1 billion will be brought into our district with these projects alone — and they are all slated to start in 2019.


It will mean strong demand for our construction trades. It shows a commitment to patient care. It shows a commitment to the community and housing. And it puts us on a path to a very bright future.





Kristi Stokes is president of the Greater Downtown Council in Duluth. She can be reached at (218) 727-8549 or She wrote this at the invitation of the News Tribune Opinion page.