Downtown Duluth's main thoroughfare may look more outdoorsy and historic in a few years.
Special timber light poles and benches that designers have called "rugged" and "bold" are on the drawing plans for a redesign of a 10-block stretch of Superior Street surrounding its intersection with Lake Avenue.
The street, home to restaurants, hotels, theaters, stores and offices — and increasingly a draw for tourists — will be redone from storefronts on one side to storefronts on the other, city officials said. The redesign is part of a larger project to replace public water, sewer and storm sewer pipes that run underneath it.
"This is our opportunity to create a new streetscape," said Jenn Moses, a planner for the city. "I expect it will be very different."
A city consultant presented several plans to the public, and citizens have been weighing in to narrow down the options. A preliminary design is slated to be completed this fall. Final designs will be drawn next year with construction anticipated to start in 2016.
So far, a mixture of North Woods and old-Duluth themes has proved most popular, winning favor over a modern look, said Brad Scott, civil project manager with LHB Inc., an architectural engineering firm working on the project for the city.
Plans also call for bringing more trees and plantings to the street, especially on its sunnier north side, as well as replacing kiosks that once held pay phones.
A mixture of diagonal and parallel parking areas on the street, as exists now, has proved popular with citizens who want to keep options plentiful for cars as well as leave some spots open for sidewalk cafe seating and other gathering spaces, officials said. Many also support room for bicycle traffic. Designers want to include features making it friendly for people to linger along Superior Street and enjoy downtown, Scott said.
What likely won't stay are all the bricks that line much of the street now. Installed more than 20 years ago, the rust and gray-colored bricks have deteriorated so much that city had to remove some of them last year and replace them with asphalt, officials said.
Various surfaces are still being studied, including stamped concrete and dyed concrete, Scott said.
"People, I think, react positively to the aesthetics of the bricks, but in terms of its functionality it's been a problem in terms of the colder weather," he said.
Moses said designers are also looking at LED lights that cast their glow downward, part of an effort to help keep the sky dark.
The total cost of the project is unknown. Depending on amenities, it may be in the ballpark of $15 million to $20 million, Scott said.
Superior Street is a Municipal State Aid route, so leaders expect to get some state money for the project. The city will also use city funding, as well as seek grants. There may be modest property assessments, officials said.
The water and sewer lines looming under the street now were first installed in the 1880s and '90s and have leaks and other problems.
City residents are still invited to give their comments on the potential new streetscape, officials said. They are planning two more public meetings for this summer, the first on June 17. Details and plans are available and comments will be taken at www.duluthmn.gov/superiorstreet.
Nothing is set in stone. Yet.