Updated: 08/03/2014 10:15 PM
Created: 08/03/2014 3:57 PM WDIO.com
By: Briggs LeSavage
Construction crews are set to begin demolishing the Wells Fargo parking ramp and the Salter building Monday in downtown Duluth.
Daniel Fanning, communications and policy director for the city, said the $27.5 million project on Michigan Street is part of a plan to bring economic vitality to the downtown area.
"With all the building going on downtown and looking at bike lanes in the future, we're going to see downtown looking a whole lot different in the next two to three years particularly with the reconstruction of Superior Street."
In the old ramp and building's places will sit the Duluth Transit Authority's new Multimodal Transportation Center. The center will provide an indoor terminal area for the transferring of bus passengers, including regional and intercity carriers. Along with an 8-bay bus boarding platform, there will also be a DTA-staffed informational desk, a bike storage area, a police substation, Wells Fargo drive through banking services and other retail spaces.
Mortenson Construction was contracted for the project. The DTA reports there will also be renovations to the Northwest Passage skywalk leading to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.
"What we're doing is taking a somewhat underutilized parking lot and expanding it and making it a much larger parking lot and then also just adding a whole lot of amenities for ... bus riders, for bicyclists, for pedestrians, for taxis, possibly for trains one day," Fanning said. "So this is really going to be the transportation hub."
Demolition is expected to last 3-4 weeks. Access to the skywalk around the demolition site will be restricted until the building's completely demolished. The skywalk that leads from the Northwest Passage at 3rd Ave. West over to Well Fargo will be closed during the demolition phase as a safety precaution.
The DTA is advising pedestrians approaching the downtown area through the Northwest Passage from the DECC to, instead of turning right at Michigan Street toward the Wells Fargo Bank, follow the directional signage to the left towards the Harbor Center where they can continue in the skywalk system to downtown, or exit down the stairway to Michigan Street and 3rd Avenue West. When the demolition is complete, a temporary skywalk will be opened that will connect the Northwest Passage to the Wells Fargo Bank Building; it will be secure, fully accessible and well lit.
The DTA also reports during the demolition of the parking ramp walls that are immediately adjacent to the Northwest Passage, the Northwest Passage from the DECC to downtown will be temporarily closed between 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. The DTA estimates this closure is will last three days in mid-August. During this temporary closure, the DTA will provide shuttle service between the DECC parking lot and downtown. Signage will be posted throughout the skywalk and downtown area listing the closure dates, pick-up points and shuttle schedule.
The DTA reports demolition will be completed with as little noise and dust as possible; machines will steadily shear the building into smaller pieces which will be loaded and hauled away. The contractor is experienced in dust management at these types of projects and will make every effort to keep it contained. Mortenson Construction plans to limit demolition activities to the hours of 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. so that nearby residents will be afforded normal noise levels in the evening.
David Carlson owns Junkwise Inc. right across from the new site. He said, despite some construction in the mean time, he's hoping for increased business both for his homemade display cases and Michigan Street in general.
"Maybe the whole Michigan Street will be a different scene all together. Maybe more businesses will want to move onto Michigan Street," Carlson said.
It's a project that Fanning said is great for businesses and the downtown area.
"This is going to really increase vitality on Michigan Street but really just as well as a whole, downtown Duluth. More and more people will be coming downtown Duluth," Fanning said.
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