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Main Street Changes Contemplated

Duluth Downtown Development Authority hears, discusses plans to facilitate downtown revitalization, increase visibility.

Building a wall along the edge and widening the elevated sidewalk in front of stores on Main Street in downtown Duluth is being contemplated, according Duluth City Manager Tim Shearer. 

This change would eliminate the triangles that jut out between parking spaces. Steps would be added to improve access for shoppers from the street to the stores, he said.

Widening the sidewalk would provide more space for outdoor dining, artist demonstrations and vendor merchandising as part of the city’s plans to revitalize downtown, Shearer told Downtown Duluth Development Authority members at their Tuesday night (Jan. 15) meeting.

Turning the 18 parking spaces in front of the elevated sidewalk into parallel rather than vertical spaces is also being considered, Shearer said. This would reduce the number of available spaces.

City staff is developing a design concept for the Main Street improvements to present to the Duluth City Council at its Jan. 28 work session, Shearer said.

DDA members Greg Lindquist and Maxine Garner opposed changing to parallel parking in front of the elevated sidewalk.

All 18 spaces there are needed, Garner said. It’s a matter of perception, she said. “If we do away with those [vertical] spaces, people will say there’s no parking downtown,” she said.

People don’t like to parallel park and usually aren’t very good at it, Lindquist said. He’s observed drivers blocking traffic while trying to parallel park on the other end of Main Street, which already has parallel parking, he said.

DDA members also discussed removing the two-hour limit signs on Main Street parking spaces to allow downtown diners and shoppers more time to do both. Or possibly expanding the limit to four hours. Another option would be to keep the two-hour limit and put up signs pointing out where additional parking is located.

Garner requested that city staff look into obtaining better quality and more attractive parking limit signs.

Shearer reported that nine crape myrtles in front of Main Street stores have been removed to increase visibility of storefronts and business signs.

The Duluth City Council authorized spending up to $4,500 to remove and replace the crape myrtles with canopy trees at its December meeting. European Elms will be planted as replacements as soon as possible, Shearer said. The new trees will have to be watered through the summer to help them become established, he said.

Eddie Owen informed the DDA that the Red Clay Theater Box Office will soon be manned during the daytime and a phone will be added in the lobby. Several interns are being interviewed to staff the box office, Owen reported, and Rhiannon Clark is serving as box office manager.

RCT patrons will be able to purchase tickets, obtain information about upcoming concerts, and pick-up discount coupons for downtown restaurants, he said.

To increase visibility of the music venue from Buford Highway, Owen said he plans to have signs painted on the three blank panels at the rear of the RCT building.

Larry Smith, owner of 2 Smith Gallery, suggested adding two Main Street signs to direct visitors downtown in an email to Duluth Economic Development Manager Chris McGahee. The gallery recently opened on Main Street.

“Many of my art patrons cannot find Main Street,” Smith stated in the email.

Smith said it would be helpful to place a Main Street sign on the southeastern side of the street near Pure Taqueria. “The other Main Street sign on the opposite corner is easily missed,” he said.

Another is needed on the northwestern side of Main Street near Duluth City Hall and the city cemetery, Smith said. “There is no sign at all there.”

Smith, who used to own an advertising agency, also recommended that the smaller words “Red,” “Clay,” and “Theatre” be added under the three “R,C,T” banners on the front of the Red Clay Theatre.

“I’ve had to walk a number of people down to the Red Clay Theatre,” Smith said. “They walk right past the big “R,C,T” banners.”

"Some of these suggestions are definitely worth paying attention to," McGahee said.

DDA member Kathryn Willis said that the idea of a marquee for the Red Clay Theatre maybe should be revisited. A marquee had been designed, but plans were changed after Pure Taqueria purchased vacant land next to the theatre to build the restaurant. The marquee would call attention to the RCT and provide more lighting downtown.

In his update on the Old City Hall Block, McGahee reported that the city council authorized $12,600 for removal of debris from the former city administration building to create a “cold, dark shell” to show prospective tenants. The building contains 2,990 square feet on each of its three floors.

The work, which also includes electrical disconnects, is being paid for with insurance settlement money, he said. The building suffered water damage during a sprinkler mishap.

McGahee also reported that fyi Duluth design center terminated its lease Dec. 31 and vacated space it had rented from the city in the Old City Hall Block. Floor repairs are needed before the space can be shown to potential tenants, he said.

The roof at The Boiler Room, located in a former warehouse on the Old City Hall Block, is leaking and needs immediate repair, McGahee said.

The agenda also included discussion on returning the section of Hill Street between Ga. Hwy. 120 and Brock Road to a two-way street. DDA members were informed that widening, adding sidewalks and allowing two-way traffic on that part of Hill Street may already be included in plans for the realignment of Ga. Hwy. 120.

Rich January 17, 2013 at 02:19 PM
. I disagree that the elimination of the angles spots at the elevated sidewalk would be a problem as they only represent the first eight spaces. Eliminate the parking at those first spots only and expand out the elevated sidewalk closer to the street with a buffer of plantings in that area which will draw more attention from the traffic on 120. Or install parallel parking, as there is only room for at most 3-4 spots, which I find unlikely to cause much of a traffic/parking issue. The angle spots past the first island, in front of Steverinos and beyond should remain. As a merchant on Main Street, I see that most of those first eight spots are occupied all day by the business owners on Main Street anyway, not retail customers. Further, the lot behind PURE and the RCT, as well as the lots at the concert stage and next to Huthmaker’s are never fully occupied. These lots are close enough for people to park and will compel people to walk past more of the downtown shops. This is provided that the other suggestions regarding improved signage for parking are followed to direct drivers to these lots. Also, the elevated sidewalk, as it stands now, is a safety hazard as it has no railing despite being in excess of a three foot drop at its highest point. Since a drop like this without a railing would not be allowed by code in a commercial building, I am shocked that it was constructed this way to begin with.
DavidE January 17, 2013 at 02:55 PM
If you think it is a problem now, wait until 120 (the re-alignment project) doesn't have to stop. It will be near impossible to get onto Main Street on the City Hall side. Many of those businesses will lose customers and will have to close their doors.
Greg Lindquist January 18, 2013 at 04:02 AM
There are over 750 parking spaces in the Duluth's Downtown District. All of them closer to our destination, than we would walk in a mall parking lot. http://thebestofbrews.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/ParkingMap.jpg To truly make Main Street Duluth a viable destination we need to be a pedestrian friendly downtown. To do that we need wider sidewalks. To get to that we will loose a few parking spots. Yes there needs to be better signage to locate parking, but the loss of a few space to make our downtown more enjoyable is worth it!
DavidE January 18, 2013 at 03:38 PM
We also need to reduce the cut thru traffic in the downtown area that is not spending money (traffic that doesn't start or end) in downtown Duluth. They are causing excessive traffic and making it pedestrian unfriendly. In front of best of brews there had been 2 parking areas (about 50-60 parking places), one in front of the building, and one on the other side of 120 next to the tracks. This went away for cut thru traffic to have more room. West Lawrenceville and McClure Bridge have a lot of cut thru traffic, this is not a benefit for Duluth. Sidewalks are not the issue, reduce the cut thru traffic and make the area more pedestrian friendly. Playing chicken to cross the road in front of people trying to get thru Duluth fast is not pedestrian friendly. I have never had an issue with the sidewalks not being large enough, and I am not a skinny man. ;-)
Greg Lindquist January 19, 2013 at 11:35 PM
Wider sidewalks will allow more activity on the sidewalks. Open air dinning, entertainment, merchants displays and art exhibits.

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