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Residents Rally for West Duluth Development

Updated: 06/29/2014 10:28 PM
Created: 06/29/2014 6:07 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
tdill@wdio.com

A new group of Duluth residents are throwing support behind Mayor Don Ness's plan to develop the St. Louis River Corridor with tourism tax revenue. The residents hope the plan can help their struggling neighborhoods.

Everyone entering Duluth gets a scenic view of the St. Louis River as they pass over Thompson Hill, but most tourists bypass West Duluth. Dean Vogtman and about 40 other residents with the River Corridor Coalition are pushing to change that.

“So not only to bring tourists out here, but bring them into the neighborhoods so they can spend money at our local shops, our local restaurants, Vogtman said.

Vogtman is the group's vice president. He says nearly every neighborhood is represented by the coalition and the residents are enthusiastically supporting Mayor Ness's development plan for the St. Louis River Corridor.

The $18 million development plan and the half percent tourism tax to fund it is currently just a proposal. Vogtman says his group doesn't want the plan to divide the city.

“We don't want it to be an east versus west thing at all. In fact, we want people from the east side to come and explore these neighborhoods to see them for what they are,” Vogtman said.

He and Noah Hobbs, the coalition president, say West Duluth neighborhoods have unrealized potential. Hobbs says similar investments have paid off for Duluth in the past.

“You look at Canal Park was very successful with their development, especially with their tourism tax dollars. West Duluth can rival, if not beat, the amount of improvement that can happen,” Hobbs said.

The city's proposal would support the Lake Superior Zoo and Spirit Mountain but also develop trails and water access along the St. Louis River. Hobbs says that could bring more than just tourists to West Duluth.

“I think it's only going to enhance the opportunities for young couples and young families to move out here and realize if they want to go on the water they can kayak or canoe in a matter of 4 minutes from where they live,” Hobbs said.

The neighbors of West Duluth are optimistic about the proposal, but the city council would have to approve the tourism tax when the plan is finished. In the meantime, the members of the River Corridor Coalition will keep voicing their enthusiastic support.

The city is expected to lay out a detailed plan for the St. Louis River Corridor later this summer.

Under the mayor's proposal a $100 hotel room would cost 50 cents more with the increased tax and a $10 restaurant tab would cost an additional 5 cents.

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