Duluth Improving Seawall, Preparing Harbor Drive Behind DECC for Cruise Ships this May

The global supply chain crisis drove up the cost of the seawall reconstruction, the head of the DECC said.

DULUTH, Minn.- Just in time for Duluth to welcome 7 Viking Cruise Ships beginning this May, the city has secured $5 million in federal CARES Act funding for the $8 million reconstruction of the aging seawall behind the DECC.

“It’ll be ADA accessible, it’ll have, the whole plaza will be more pedestrian-friendly,” said Chris Fleege, Planning and Economic Development Director for the City. “Also the sheet pile have to be deeper so that it can accommodate deeper draught ships”

The rest of the money will mostly be covered from the capital support that Minnesota sent Duluth in 2020.

According to the DECC’S Executive Director, Dan Hartman, it’s needed after the supply chain crisis drove up the cost.

“All in I think it’s 30+ million and originally I think it was around 14,” he said, “it’s large chunks of steel that have to come from across, you know it’s just all of the wrong elements that for the cost side.”

While the seawall is worked on this summer and into next year, Fleege says cruise ships will anchor in the bay and shuttle passengers to shore in smaller vessels.

They will then pass through a customs facility that needs to be up and running by May.

Viking will be funding part of that, and the City of Duluth will fund the rest through tourism tax dollars.

“It also really introduces the City of Duluth to other people that likely will want to come back at some point,” said Fleege.

He added Duluth will see economic benefits right off the bat, with an estimated $600,000 to $700,000 annual economic impact at first.

But next year when Duluth becomes an embarkation location, or a port passengers can board cruise ships from, the impact would be upward of $3 million a year.

“I mean certainly for the businesses that are in the Canal Park area but even more broadly than that it’s going to impact businesses,” Fleege said. “One thing that Viking does and I think all the cruise lines do is they’ll schedule day trips for folks so they can run up to Glensheen they can go up on to the Iron Range.”

One of the first spots passengers will encounter will be the new pedestrian-only Harbor Drive area behind the DECC.

It will be turned into green space with food trucks and other attractions. “We don’t think about it but we don’t have a place in Duluth where you can casually in a relaxing way sit and see the harbor traffic, as close as you get going under the lift bridge,” said Hartman.

“But when you’re out there in front of the DECC you can see all that’s going on,” he said.

Hartman says they’re still working on securing more funding for the separate Harbor Drive project.

“It’s going to be a beautiful thing for Duluthians to kind of look down at the Harbor and see this giant cruise ship,” the head of the DECC said.

But he feels the 700-foot Viking ships will bring not only passengers to the area but other Minnesotans as well.

“I mean kind of think about it where we’ll have these 8 weekends where a ship that’s as big as the William A. Irvin potentially, out in front of the DECC,” he said. “You know I’m originally from a small town in Central Minnesota and I could totally see myself driving up to see these cruise ships for the day.”

“And I think Duluth will do more from that leisure travel than we will actually even from the cruise ship passengers themselves,” said Hartman.

The seawall and Harbor Drive projects are both set to begin this summer, potentially in June.

Categories: Business, Community, Environment, Minnesota, News, News – Latest News