If you build for pedestrians, they will come
Duluthians agree that great efforts should be made to foster more of an "experience" for locals and tourists alike. Protected bike lanes would help, but what's needed is a more positive
pedestrian experience overall.
Though they must exist, I don't know of a single family that heads downtown to regularly hang out for an afternoon. The current environment simply doesn't promote this. People tend to drive down for a specific purpose, such as a meeting at a coffee shop or dinner in a restaurant.
What if the entire downtown area became the destination and not just a single $4 cup of coffee?
The creation of a pedestrian mall, such as the wildly popular tourist destination that is State Street in Madison would accomplish just that.
Duluth bicyclist Matt Goodman agrees, "I think it would be great," the Minneapolis native said comparing a Duluth downtown pedestrian and cyclist mall to Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, which he remembers as being a place to go and just hang out.
Goodman, also the founder of Duluth Bike Commuters, a Facebook group, said, "It would be a place to go to walk (or bike) and just hang out ... the same way people hang out at the mall."
Goodman currently commutes on his bike from his Woodland Avenue home to his work near Chris Jensen Health and Rehabilitation Center, which is about 5 miles.
There are planned events in downtown Duluth such as concerts, the Tuesday afternoon farmers market and Sidewalk Days, but my family and I aren't biking around looking for events. Sidewalk Days is a little too crowded and I'm not into shopping, so it doesn't really interest me. We just want an enjoyable hangout destination. The same way some people decide to just hang out at the mall.
Zeitgeist Arts with all its activities would anchor the eastern end, while the public library or Depot would drive interest toward the west and all points in between. Perhaps a permanent band shell could be constructed on the Minnesota Power Plaza for the purpose of hosting regular events.
Buses and emergency vehicles would have unfettered access to the street, which should be significantly narrowed for the sake of wider sidewalks, bike lanes and outdoor gathering areas. A pedestrian destination of this sort has the potential to drive humanity by the droves into the downtown area in search of a meaningful experience. This, in turn, would greatly increase the number of spontaneous visits to all downtown shops, while permanently establishing a desirable retail district in the heart of Duluth.
Once again, the downtown area would immediately become a bona fide destination for our residents.