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Hotels Could Force Big Changes for Park Point

Posted at: 03/27/2013 10:27 PM
Updated at: 03/27/2013 10:47 PM
By: Laurie Stribling
lstribling@wdio.com

The future of Park Point was at the center of a community meeting Wednesday night. Two new hotels received approval and that may mean other changes to the neighborhood.

A planning committee was set up back in December to start planning improvements for the area. Keith Hamre, Director of Planning and Construction for the city of Duluth, said traffic was a major focus of the Small Area Plan presented to the community.

About 60 people packed the Lafayette Community Recreation Center to hear the proposed plan. Some changes would include bike lanes, speed bumps and moving the so-called S curve where South Lake Avenue and Minnesota Avenue merge.

The turn would be moved from 12th Street South to 8th Street South. That means traffic from the lift bridge would be directed towards the commercial area and where the hotels are. As of now, the main road goes through a neighborhood full of homes.

"Those folks have had the noise, the air pollution and all that traffic for years and years and years," Park Point resident Dennis Hoelscher said. "I think a diversion of that pattern so that it will accommodate more of the commercial section, rather than residential section, would be something to think about."

While some people thought changing the route was a good idea, others were not on board.

"I have three structures that this would greatly affect," Park Point resident Mark Medlin said.

Medlin owns a home, apartments and a business along where the new turn would be, and he thinks the change would cut into his property.

"You have to fight for what you believe and your property rights," Medlin said. "We pay some of the highest taxes on Park Point, and yet we aren't getting the representation that we should."

Hamre said property owners near the new turn should not see changes with the current design. If the design changes, which Hamre said it may, people's homes and businesses could be affected.

As for the hotels, one of the owners Joel Johnson said he plans to break ground in May. He hopes to open up 10 months after that. The new hotel will have 112 rooms and stand 118-feet high.

The second public meeting for the Small Area Plan on Park Point is tentatively set for May 1.