The new 11-story Maurice’s Headquarters and Office Building in downtown Duluth added some heft to the skyline of this mid-sized metro in the Middle West last year. Now one city councilor is looking up, not out, for future development of the city.
At-large city councilor Zach Filipovich has proposed a resolution for tonight’s Council meeting that would allow taller buildings to be constructed in the heart of Duluth.
In this Peter Passi story in the Sunday Duluth News Tribune, Filipovich explains his reasons:
“I don’t see how we can substantially grow our city and at the same time not expand our utility infrastructure without having more dense and taller buildings in areas,” said Filipovich, who introduced the resolution.
The councilor makes a valid case for more dense development, said Keith Hamre, Duluth’s director of planning and construction services.
“From an economic development standpoint, we want more density. We want to maximize our utilities and the other infrastructure we have in place,” Hamre explained.
The City Council will be asked to resolve that Duluth should “encourage and use high-density zoning, building up rather than out, as a tool to preserve green space and to protect the city’s viewshed.”
Not everybody is sure about this yet. Other city councilors wonder aloud if there are ways to address future development density without necessarily focusing on the height of buildings.
“I am an advocate for density, and I’m very concerned with sprawl,” said City Council President Joel Sipress.
But he questioned Filipovich, noting: “There are multiple strategies by which one can achieve density. There’s infill. There’s townhomes. There are lots of strategies for achieving density. But the only strategy that is specifically mentioned in this resolution is height, and I’m wondering what your thinking was?”
Filipovich responded: “I don’t know any other way to achieve more density in a single area of land other than by going up. If we’re going to have more people in one spot, we’re either going to have very tiny places to live or we’re going to need to have taller buildings or a combination of both.”
This will be part of the discussion tonight.
It’s encouraging to see Duluth look at the future in terms of building inside the city as opposed to expanding its edges. So many small towns across Northern Minnesota seem fixated on running sewers, streets and sidewalks further and further in hopes of drawing in new development. That philosophy has proven a net loser over time due to the costs of maintenance and lower tax revenues from box stores and strip malls.
Does this mean skyscrapers are in Duluth’s future? Probably not, but development solutions are more plentiful when you think in terms of what can be done where you are, rather than where you aren’t.