Duluth Receives Knight Foundation Grant for “Mega-Parklets”

"Making Canal Park Pop" is a Winner for Knight Cities Challenge

DULUTH, Minn. – There is big news for the City of Duluth, as $200,000 is coming its way in an effort to bring the community together.

Some Duluth city leaders submitted the idea of “Making Canal Park Pop” to the Knight Cities Challenge.

Canal Park is known for its great view of the lake, shops and also the many cars driving by in the summer.

“I always say that we don’t have a parking problem, we have a car problem,” explained Duluth City Councilor at Large Elissa Hansen.

Hansen is looking for ways to bring residents to the area from all over town.

She believes mega-parklets are one way to do that.

“Through different types of pedestrian walkways and trying to really connect like the DECC Bayfront walkway to the lakewalk walkway,” said Hansen.

The Knight Foundation gives out $5 million each year to cities around the country.

“Some might fail, but some might work really well, and Knight Foundation is okay with that,” said Lilly Weinberg, the Knight Community Foundations Program Director.

It’s all with the hope of making a difference.

“One, it’s authentic to Duluth, but it’s also spurring potentially catalytic change in the community,” explained Weinberg.

This year, more than 4,000 applied and just 33 cities came away with a win.

According to Hansen, the goal of the mega-parklets is to break down socio-economic barriers within the city.

“We have a 10-year difference life expectancy between some of our zip codes. This is the kind of infrastructure change that can start to impact that in the long run,” said Hansen.

Hansen worked on the idea with Mayor Emily Larson, Chief Administrative Officer Dave Montgomery, and Planning Director Keith Hamre.

“We have a lot of really great park spaces and green spaces, but we’re missing that space where the community kind of owns it all together,” said Hansen.

Although it’s not a permanent solution, Hansen hopes this is the road to get the city there.

“It allows us to try these things out to figure out if we’re gonna change infrastructure, if we’re gonna have a parking ramp somewhere, or more buildings somewhere, or more greenspace somewhere, or what could that look like and what does the community rally behind,” said Hansen.

Mayor Larson gave us this statement about the funds, “We are thrilled and grateful for the Knight Cities Challenge grant which will enable all residents to experience more of what Canal Park has to offer and share their own ideas about the future of the district. We are excited to introduce elements that align economic development with creative use of open space. This project is grounded in our work towards achieving prosperity that is inclusive of everyone.”

This summer the grant will be presented as a resolution to the Duluth City Council.

Once that is passed the work can begin.

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