Duluth mayoral candidate Roger Reinert on the DECC's recent financial challenges: "The DECC holds a special place for me after serving on the board for nine years, then stepping off the board to help provide leadership during the darkest days of the pandemic. Those were 11 very challenging months. We received no government stimulus dollars, and had little way to earn revenue due to city and state indoor gathering restrictions. Actively managing the budget was key to surviving.
While it's been three years since then, clearly the DECC is going through another challenging period. Dan Hartman and the DECC board have difficult financial decisions ahead of them to keep this critical regional asset moving forward. I support the extension of a line of credit, and I'm hopeful this combination buys the facility needed time to even out expenses and revenue. Duluth, and our region, need the DECC to succeed. It serves as a foundation for our hospitality industry, home to the DSSO Symphony and Bulldog Hockey, and an important civic gathering space."
Note: Duluth Times also reached out to mayoral candidate Emily Larson to publish her thoughts on the DECC financial issue, at no cost to her campaign, but she has yet to responded to our request.
Duluth Times Editorial Board to endorse local candidates
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Community Leaders on Downtown Housing
Ordean Foundation Executive Director Don Ness, among other community leaders, on converting the Ordean Building to workforce housing and retail – "I’m very enthusiastic about the progress being made to convert additional properties from commercial office space into housing. It addresses several concerns – housing shortage, commercial vacancy rates, and vibrancy in the core city. Not every building in downtown is well suited for this sort of conversion, but the Ordean Building is perfectly situated because it is a long, narrow building with southerly and westerly window exposure. It’s a solid building in a great location."
Sandy Hoff, local developer – “Creating additional workforce housing in our community is critical to growing the local economy. With high vacancy rates, repurposing existing office buildings has the opportunity to revitalize the central business district. Successfully transforming our downtown will take a collaborative effort between the city, county and state, as developers are facing significant challenges with the high cost of construction, preservation initiatives and high interest rates."
Roger Reinert, Duluth mayoral candidate – "We've talked about housing across all income levels for months now. It's critical for growth of our community, as well as growth of our key businesses. We've also talked about downtown residential as a key component of reviving Downtown Duluth. Rental and for purchase options. Retail, commercial and residential all in the same building. A key component in getting where we need to go is also proactively addressing the continuing cleanliness and public safety issues. We can't just accept that this is our new norm."
Daniel Fanning, Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce – "Earlier this week the City of Duluth announced results from the Zimmerman/Volk Associates Downtown Housing Market Study, which showed the potential for as many as 2,500 new housing units within the next five years. Similarly, results from the recent survey released by the Duluth Area Chamber Foundation showed that housing, downtown safety and taxes were among the top concerns and priorities of Duluth citizens, which are also priorities for the Duluth Area Chamber and Chamber Foundation. That data reaffirms what many of us felt for a while: we’re making progress but there’s more to do for Duluth to meet its full potential. That’s why it was exciting to join Titanium Partners, Mayor Larson and other officials with the City of Duluth, Downtown Duluth and other community partners yesterday to announce that Titanium Partners will be converting part of the Ordean Building to housing, as well as additional commercial opportunities. This will add around 40 additional units of housing, as well as adding to our tax base while increasing positive activity and activation in our downtown.
All of this helps support local businesses and commerce. We see this as a sign of things to come, a positive step in the right direction on the path forward for our community and business community. It will take these kinds of continued efforts and investments from the private sector, in strong partnership and collaboration with the public sector and key partners like the Duluth Area Chamber, to help Duluth reach our full potential. We have been working closely with Brian Forcier and his team at Titanium Partners, and are so grateful for his leadership, commitment to our community and continued investment. We stand ready, willing, and able to work with anyone interested in investing in Duluth and continuing the positive momentum that is building.
Projects like the Ordean Building and other recent housing projects, as well as recent major investments in our downtown by members including Essentia and St. Luke's, and several other economic development projects either under way or being planned right now are all very positive signs and evidence that now is the time to invest in Duluth. We hope these serve as catalysts for additional investment and development, especially additional much needed housing units. This is and will remain among the top priorities for the Duluth Area Chamber and Chamber Foundation, and we will continue to advocate for and work towards community progress, increased economic development and improved business conditions."
Arik Forsman, Duluth City Councilor – "Rebuilding our downtown starts with acknowledging it was built for a world that no longer exists post-Covid. Hybrid work is here to stay and we have an excess of office space that needs to go. The 'roofs before retail' model of focusing on building up our population downtown to attract a more vibrant business environment is a proven strategy. Converting some of the vacant office space like the Ordean project that Titanium has proposed needs to be on the table. We also need to make room for new mixed-use construction downtown by removing structures that just can’t be readapted. All hands on deck are needed downtown. The city, developers, and anchor institutions all need to work together if we are going to be successful as a community and restore pride in the heart of Duluth.”
Brian Daugherty, Grandma's Restaurants – "Converting Downtown Duluth office building to workforce housing – it’s the marketplace at work! When you combine solving the challenge of a surplus of office space, with the challenge of housing shortages, you’re witnessing the marketplace at work. Obviously, the hard part is making this project sustainable and profitable for those folks taking all the risk and doing all the work. From what I understand, workforce housing is housing aimed and priced at the sweet spot of what the median income of that area can afford. There are tighter margins in a Ford than there are in a BMWs, and these will be Fords, aimed at the working person. We are fortunate to have an incredibly capable and vested local company like Titanium involved, and the city seemingly ready and able to do what they can to make this happen. I think that’s what it will take, a cooperative public/private effort to solve these two big challenges we are dealing with."
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