Duluth to allow developer not to include old City Hall in plans

DULUTH - The city plans to create a sense of place.

That thought, coupled with the notion that there is still a lot of work to be done, was about the only themes to emerge Wednesday from a special session of the city council and the downtown development authority board.

As the two groups met jointly to discuss the ongoing downtown face-lift, the issue before the council was whether or not to approve the DDA board's Aug. 27 decision to allow the developer the ability to not preserve and include the old City Hall building and annex as part of the redevelopment effort.

"We've not approved any plan," said Ken Odum, chairperson for the board. "We're a long way from developing this piece of property. But what we are recommending is that we allow the developer to continue spending his dollars on plans and drawings that does not include the old City Hall."

The council will vote on the board's recommendation Sept. 22.

Odum said as the meeting began that the main message his group received from the development community was that the old City Hall and annex could not be included in the redevelopment plan if the project was to be economically feasible.

Mayor Nancy Harris said with the seventh anniversary of Sept. 11 looming, people nationwide wanted a city to call home that gave them a sense of place.

"People are longing for authenticity and uniqueness in their hometown," Harris said. "People are looking for a place that has tradition."

Harris said Duluth offered all of these and said she was not opposed to progress.

"I want a well developed, upscale development in that area," she said. "But it's OK for us to revisit and rethink decisions. This is part of a quality process."

When it came time to speak for or against the board's recommendation, two people spoke in favor of preserving the buildings while seven spoke in favor of moving forward.

"Suwanee is kicking our butt," one resident said. "We can't let them do that anymore."