Have you ever given any thought to the developers who come in to take on big projects in Duluth? Sure, occasionally they’re local people, but quite often they’re coming in from much larger cities. Why?
Most likely it’s because they see us as ripe for the picking. We have plenty of large tracts of land sitting idle, or not living up to their perceived usefulness. Developers eye these lots and buildings as objects from which they can make money.
I’m not saying that is a bad thing. Most people who are in business have a goal to make money. But are they really looking out for our best interests? Or are they just swooping in, selling us a bill of goods, and then leaving us to figure out how to best use/fill/sell what they’ve “developed’?
Housing is a great example. With nearly 1500 empty units in town, the current administration keeps trying to tell us that we are in dire need of more upscale options for people moving to our area. Why aren’t we trying to put up more housing in neighborhoods on the other side of Mesaba? Why do we insist on pushing everything to the eastern side of town?
There are some great buildings in West Duluth and Morgan Park that are sitting empty. I would love to see us focus on bringing these neighborhoods to developers’ attention. Clyde Iron was a great start; developed by a local person who had a personal interest. But would that project have been possible if it was left to an out of town developer?
We are letting a handful of people tell us where and what will be developed. The city is in bed with these people and just can’t get enough when they whisper in DEDA’s ear. They promise us pie in the sky results on multi-million dollar projects. They promise things like full occupancy in office buildings and hundreds of shows a year in theaters, but can they deliver? Do they care?
Probably not after the crews leave town.
Isn’t it time that we stop trying to make Duluth into Minneapolis North? If we wanted to live in the metro we would. It’s time that the residents start having a voice in where and what happens. Address the real issues in the city’s development plans, like existing vacant and decaying housing and lack of grocery availability in certain neighborhoods.
There is a handful of people who seem to be involved in all of the projects in town. At some point, we need to have community involvement and work together to plan Duluth’s future. It shouldn’t be up to outsiders with no skin in the game or the one percenters who like to think they know what’s best for us and we should just trust them.
I don’t. And neither should you.
Now is the time to restore common sense to our city with mindful development that benefits the majority of our residents. It’s time to return to doing what is best for the many, not the few.