DULUTH – More than $125 million in state dollars will be coming to the region as part of the bonding bill that advanced Thursday, and Duluth officials are cheering the $13.5 million set aside for Lakewalk and sea wall repair, the city's one big request.
"It protects expensive private and public infrastructure from the hammering of the lake," said Jim Filby Williams, the city's director of property, parks and libraries. "It also provides public access to the lake and in doing so serves as a primary driver for our tourism economy, which has taken a big hit this year."
Damaged in successive storms in 2017 and 2018, phase one of Lakewalk reconstruction — paid for primarily with federal money — is expected to wrap up next spring.
State money will help pay for wider and better reinforced paths from Canal Park to East 21st Avenue, where the Beacon Pointe resort sits.
"It suffered less harm but is ultimately vulnerable to the same sort of disaster damage over time," Filby Williams said. "This will raise the rest of that critical community asset to endure Lake Superior storms for the long term and enable more people to come and enjoy our waterfront."
Much of that work is expected to take place in 2022.
About $8 million in state bonding money will go toward restoring the sea wall behind the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center and the road and greenway that abut it along the harbor between the aquarium and the Minnesota Slip.
The city is also applying for a federal grant that would help pay for changes needed to dock cruise ships along that sea wall.
"It will finally enable us to follow through on the long promise as establishing Duluth as a cruise ship destination," Filby Williams said.
Other local projects include $4.4 million for renovation at A.B. Anderson Hall at the University of Minnesota Duluth; $1.5 million for the county-owned historic depot in downtown Duluth and $204,000 for Lake Superior Zoo. The bill also authorizes the Duluth school district to issue up to a $31.5 million bond related to the potential sale of Historic Old Central High School and moving district offices and programs.
An additional $14 million was added to the Port Development Assistance Program, which will help the Port of Duluth-Superior land a large federal grant.