Economic Impact Project Finalists: Clyde Park

Project Location:  Duluth

Project Summary

Clyde Park is strategically located in the southwest part of Lincoln Park, one of the oldest and largest neighborhoods in Duluth, Minnesota. The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) designated it as an impoverished, urban neighborhood and a target area for redevelopment. The property covered 10 acres and included approximately 19 industrial buildings. It is a highly visible site adjacent to Interstate I-35 just west of downtown Duluth and near the city’s waterfront.

The property has a long history of heavy industrial use, first as an iron foundry and heavy machining shop from the 1890s until the 1970s. At the height of its operations, Clyde employed approximately 600 workers in the 1940s. Clyde’s operations dwindled and ultimately ceased in the 1980s, and by about 2002, the site was largely vacant and blighted with poorly maintained surfaces, buildings, and an incomplete security fence and was subject to vandalism and theft.

In 2003, Alessandro (Alex) Giuliani was inspired to purchase the site. His vision was to create a mixed-use recreational and commercial development that retained its historical significance through reuse of key existing buildings. Giuliani completed a historical and physical assessment and participated in a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brownfields assessment through the City of Duluth and worked closely with staff from the National Trust for Historical Preservation.

In December 2003, Peterson Arena, a city-owned hockey facility was destroyed by a Zamboni explosion and fire. The arena was a venue for city recreation programming and the youth hockey program. Its loss created a hardship for youth and their families. Local volunteers explored alternatives for a replacement facility, and in 2005, began discussions with Giuliani regarding potential use of the Clyde site. The challenges were contamination, inadequate utilities, and the need for improved traffic circulation.

Working with the City of Duluth, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Giuliani initiated a multi-phase environmental and geotechnical assessment to explore the viability of an ice arena at the site.  Addressing legacy problems with the site,  issues identified at the site included filled areas containing foundry sand and furnace slag materials as well as petroleum-contaminated soil from former underground storage tanks and an adjacent bulk-petroleum-storage facility. The chemicals of concern at the site were petroleum compounds, petroleum-related  volatile organic compounds (VOCs), arsenic, lead, and semi-VOCs.

A large amount of creativity and technical expertise was required to successfully complete this large and complex redevelopment project. The project’s collaborators were able to match geotechnical and environmental site conditions related to buildings and planned uses while balancing costs; clear excess native site soil for off-site export and manage as much of the construction-generated fill soils in on-site areas; incorporate building vapor protections inside the old structure; secure financing for  the various phases, which required an ever-increasing circle of partners as the project phases advanced; and overcome skepticism by some in the community to obtain 19 resolutions from the City Council regarding easements, agreements, and covenants.

The Lincoln Park neighborhood was economically challenged with 11 percent unemployment and high poverty rates. Over 50 percent of the residents do not own their own homes. The addition of the Clyde Park complex has breathed new life and possibilities into the area to spur economic growth.

The Clyde Iron (Restaurant and Venue) and the Duluth Heritage Sports Center at Clyde are exemplary models of economic development melding vision, brownfield redevelopment, and a strong commitment to stimulating community prosperity. The project brought together a shared purpose of creating a community space to be used and enjoyed by residents and visitors. Last year’s data indicates that the sports center was used by nearly a half-million people.

The 28,200 square-foot Clyde Iron (Restaurant and Venue) has a capacity of up to 1,500 people and, over the past 12 months, hosted more than 180 events, including concerts, plays, boxing cards, dances, fundraising efforts, weddings, corporate banquets, tradeshows, training seminars, parties, and community meetings. In addition, the project has created 62 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs, increased property tax revenues by $20,000, and generated $10 of private investment for every $1 of public investment in the project. Partnerships with local businesses, Duluth LISC, and the City of Duluth have attracted new businesses such as Frost River, Kestrel, and ZMC Hotels to the neighborhood and have helped expand on existing ones like Rohlfing Distribution.

The Clyde Park project’s economic impact can also be seen in the new storefronts and a promising vision for the neighborhood. It is truly a multifaceted, community-supporting, and economy-building project that is sparking an ongoing and expanding sphere of positive influence in its neighborhood.

Project Submitted by:  Barr Engineering Co.

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