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Howie: Annie Harala heavily engaged in Superior Street renovation project

As Northland Constructors’ public information coordinator, Annie Harala has had a front row seat for Phase I of the Superior Street reconstruction project.

“Beginning in April and ending with two blocks today, and a couple more weeks to the West ahead, we have been working really hard from the base of the street all the way up,” Harala said at Tuesday’s strongly-attended Phase I wrap-up public celebration. “I’m blown away by the hard work of my colleagues at Northland Constructors, and at Parsons Electric and Stack Brothers, our pipe fitters. They’re all working so hard.”

For her part, Harala served as a person of contact between project leaders and businesses and property owners.

“The Greater Downtown Council came up with a great communications plan, so it’s been fun from the contractor side to be able to implement that and to work alongside them as we supported our businesses,” Harala said. “We had weekly meetings at one of our neighbor businesses, and we published an update that was sent out once a week. I worked business-to-business to make sure that people had the information they needed, day-to-day.”

The 400 and 300 blocks of West Superior Street were reopened to traffic on Tuesday morning. Staff / HowieHanson.com
So, was Phase I a success?

“As evidenced by the celebration today, people feel good about the project,” said Harala. “They’re proud of what’s to come. There’s always headaches as you go along on a project of this size, but even when the days were hard, we all got through it together. We had to keep the doors open, rerouting a sidewalk if needed.”

What was learned in Phase I that can help Phases II and III in 2019 and 2020?

“First of all, we have phenomenal, resilient business owners,” Harala said. “We’ll be sure to continue to build good connections. Kristi Stokes at the Greater Downtown Council and I have already been meeting with a handful of businesses in round two, and just starting to answer questions as early and as swiftly as we possibly can.”

Stokes said the 12-block, three-summer reconstruction project can serve as a catalyst for additional growth and investment in Downtown Duluth.

Phase I was completed with only a few hiccups, Stokes said.

“Mother nature slowed us down a little bit, but not much,” she said. “Starting on this end of Superior Street helped because we have a skywalk system, which helped us move people around during the construction.”

Meantime, Stokes said Phase II will create a new set of challenges.

“We won’t have a skywalk system for the next phase, so we’re going to need additional signage,” she said. “We’ll probably do a little bit more work in the alley ways. We’ll really need to work with the arts and entertainment and restaurants to continue to ensure that people visit them.”

Also, Essentia Health will begin to transform its downtown Duluth campus – in an $800 million project dubbed Vision Northland – sometime in 2019.

“We’ve actually had a lot of conversation about that, since the Superior Street and Essentia projects will be happening at the same time,” said Stokes. “There will be a lot of work in the medical, arts and entertainment and restaurant district for our construction folks in the next couple of years, to be sure.”