Duluth hears proposal for design center

DULUTH - The Duluth City Council took care of first-of-the-year business during its regular meeting Monday and heard a proposal to bring more business downtown in 2009 during a post-meeting work session.

Duluth resident Stacie Stamper requested the city's permission to lease the old Duluth city hall for a home and garden design center called "Design Divas of Downtown Duluth" during the work session.

A proposed cooperative with more than 40 potential members, the center would sell furniture, Oriental rugs and other home and garden items, Stamper said. Interior design, landscaping and other consulting services would be offered at the center by appointment, she said. Seminars on design topics and other activities also would be scheduled.

The center would serve as "an incubator" that would nurture the cooperative members into independent downtown Duluth merchants, Stamper said.

"Currently, people must travel into the city (Atlanta) to obtain the products and resources we would offer in downtown Duluth," she said.

The Church Ladies, which has been operating a consignment shop for household items in the old city hall, a former church, plans to vacate the building at the end of February.

Duluth City Administrator Phil McLemore said the city's legal counsel had recommended against leasing the building again because it is scheduled to be demolished as part of the planned redevelopment of the old city hall block.

Stamper assured the council that the cooperative would vacate the building in a timely manner to accommodate the redevelopment.

Councilmen Doug Mundrick and Greg Whitlock asked Stamper to provide the council with a copy of her business plan and letters of intent from members of the cooperative as a basis for deciding whether to authorize McLemore to draw up the lease.

During the regular meeting, Mayor Nancy Harris appointed Councilman Jim Dugan to serve a second year as mayor pro tem.

The council reappointed the Lawrenceville-based law firm of Thompson & Sweeny as the city's legal counsel. Twelve engineering firms of record were also named.

In 2009, the council will continue to meet on the second and fourth Mondays of the month at 7 p.m. in Duluth City Hall with two exceptions in May and June. Work sessions will be conducted at 6:15 p.m. prior to each meeting and continue after the meeting if necessary. Other work sessions will be scheduled with proper notice. Meetings and work sessions are open to the public.

The council designated Nov. 3 as the date of the 2009 city election. Posts currently held by Councilwoman Marsha Anderson Bomar, Councilman Jim Dugan and Councilman Jim Hall will be on the ballot.

Steve Beauregard in the city's Information Technology Department was announced as Employee of the Year for 2008. He was selected by his peers for the honor.