Superior Street to be Reconstructed

by Felicity Bosk

Photo credit: Felicity Bosk
Photo credit: Felicity Bosk

Duluth has plans to reconstruct Superior Street between 2018 and 2020. The plan is to rebuild the streets, sidewalks, water main, steam line, storm sewer and generally upgrade Duluth’s main street in three phases. Superior Street has seen small fixes over the years, but this project is meant to be a long term solution to infrastructure deterioration. 

“The street itself is at the end of its useful life. The bricks are starting to wear out,” said Duncan Schwensohn, a city engineer and the project manager for Superior Street. “Some of the water main down there is circa 1880 water main and it’s just getting to the time to start replacing things. It’s served the city for a long time but nothing lasts forever.”

Timelinemap photo credit: City of Duluth http://duluthmn.gov/media/543075/superior-street-reconstruction-presentation.pdf
Timelinemap photo credit: City of Duluth http://duluthmn.gov/media/543075/superior-street-reconstruction-presentation.pdf

In 2018, construction will take pace from Mesaba Avenue to the west side of 3rd Avenue West. In 2019, construction will be from the east side of Lake Avenue to 4th Avenue East. In 2020, the city will reconstruct 3rd Avenue West to Lake Avenue.  
There will be times when some shops storefronts are not accessible, but Schwensohn said this is something they will do their best to minimize. 

“During construction we are going to be prioritizing as much continuous pedestrian access as we can to the businesses, and then have wayfinding signs at each intersection to help people understand where they need to go” said Schwensohn. “Just with the nature of putting down a concrete surface—if it’s a business with only one entrance on Superior Street, we will minimize it as much as we can, but there will be a time where you can’t use that door just because there is fresh concrete there.”  

While some businesses on Superior Street have options to enter their stores from a backdoor or the skywalk, many rely on their front doors for business. This has caused those businesses some worry about how the construction will effect them. 
“There is no other entrance so it’s going to be a challenge, no doubt about that,” said Dan Neff owner and artist of Lake Superior Art Glass. “But we’ve known its coming for some time now. We really are trying to build up our website to make sure we still get some sales.” 

The Greater Downtown Council has been working with these businesses on ways to help make it easier for customers to find back entrances or help business become more active with their online presence. 

“Last night I went to a meeting and got the full scope of what was going to happen,” said Laura Hamblin, retail manager at the Duluth Coffee Company. “I think as long as we are proactive we will still be able to bring people in, at least that’s my hope.” 
This project is much more than just what is happening above ground. The city will remove and replace the storm sewers located under Superior Street and install a storm water treatment structure at 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Avenues East. 

While working on the water main, there will be interruptions in the service of water to downtown buildings but the city is working to make sure it has the smallest effect on individual business. There will be a notice to building owners and businesses before any interruptions take place and will be scheduled around the hours a building’s water would be used the most.  

“All the buildings down there will be upgraded,” said Schwensohn about the water main. “And after it’s all said and done there won’t be any old water main down there essentially all the way from Mesaba to 4th Avenue East.”

“There will be a lot going on underground out there,” he said.
Aesthetically, they will be adding trees, benches, waste baskets, and new lighting. Schwensohn said there will be fewer decorative lights than currently but the lighting will be better and dark sky compliant. 

Long term most businesses on Superior Street are hopeful that this will make Superior Street feel more connected to all areas of downtown.
“I think there will be a continuity with the atmosphere in Canal Park that tourists enjoy,” said Neff adding he is confident the project will benefit businesses in the long run. 

Costs will not be known until a contractor has been chosen for the project, though Schwensohn said it has been consistently estimated over the years to cost around $30 to $35 million.

You can find more information on this project and updates as they come at superiorstreet.org