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Celebrating Downtown Duluth in 2017

Recently, the Greater Downtown Council hosted a sold-out crowd of 650 people at its annual dinner meeting. It’s a testament to the strong support for our downtown and the importance of working together to further strengthen our central business district.

We celebrated successes with the doors opening at five major construction projects in our downtown. We also celebrated at least five more large projects in the pre-planning or construction phase for the near future. And we celebrated initiatives that make us stronger.

Housing has been a priority during 2016 and continues into 2017. The GDC is working to encourage additional market-rate housing in our urban core to create a more active, livable community. To this end, we also teamed up with DEDA to update a study on the demand for housing downtown and those results will help developers as they consider housing projects.

But, beyond the projects and the initiatives, it’s the people and the volunteers who really help steer the course. Outgoing GDC Board Chair Tami LaPole Edmunds of Art in the Alley is passionate about our downtown and its success. She shares new ideas freely and understands the challenges and opportunities that small business owners encounter. She has devoted her time and energy to the GDC because she believes in our downtown and serves as one of our greatest advocates.

Tami has passed the gavel to Dave Jensch of KBJR-TV. Dave has years of demonstrated leadership within his company as well as with other volunteer positions in the community. He knows how to activate and encourage our stakeholders and he values public-private partnerships. He believes in a unified voice behind one strong organization and strives for tangible ways to show our support of business growth and economic development.

We also thank three individuals who have served as past board chairs, but have now retired from our board: Sue Ross, Doug Melander and Ryan Melhus. What a wealth of knowledge and inspiration within this trio! Finally, our board members for 2017 include Kim Chick, Diane Davidson, Jax Eisenmann, Regina Fodness, Brian Forcier, Matt Gottwald,  Keith Hamre, Shelley Jones, Eric Johnson, Pam Kramer, Mike Maxim, Mike Polzin, Jenn Ryan, Michael Seymour, Laura Sieger and Jessica Stauber.

Finally, we always celebrate the good work of our Clean & Safe Team. These cleaning and hospitality ambassadors are out on the street and in the skywalks on a daily basis, making our downtown a better place to live, work and play. Congratulations to Cecile Simonson who was recognized as our “Ambassador of the Year.” This award is a testament to her consistent dependability and her wealth of experience.

These are just some of the people behind the efforts to continue to make downtown Duluth a vibrant and inviting destination. Our downtown is filled with locally owned businesses, both large and small. And the individuals behind these businesses and behind the GDC, are invested in our community, their employees and their families. We celebrate these stakeholders as they work with the GDC to keep the momentum rolling in 2017.

Kristi Stokes

Kristi Stokes is the president of the Greater Downtown Council in Duluth. Contact her at 727-8549.