There are two basic staples that must be present in order to have a lasting, successful business/retail community: businesses and customers.
It’s really that simple. At the core of it all, if you have those two things, then it’s up to the business/retail community to not mess it up. In East Roswell, where I grew up, we had plenty of customers in the early 1980s. And then they built a host of strip malls east and west along Holcomb Bridge Road. It almost didn’t matter what went into those buildings, at the time there was nothing else around and they were very successful. Over time of course, more attractive developments were built in surrounding communities and those developments struggled. But my point is that our city planners are constantly looking at their office/retail/residential mixes. To make residents happy, you need a good mix of retail and office infrastructure nearby. To make the retail businesses successful, you need good daytime traffic from the office community and nighttime and weekend traffic from the residential community.
Over the last 20 years I’ve watched the city of Duluth transform its downtown from a nondescript area along an industrial road into a very charming and vibrant gathering place. The city government invested a lot money to build an anchor in its downtown district – a sprawling city green with an amphitheater, a new city hall, and a water park. That “anchor” has since encouraged retail and business development all around it.
As they say, success breeds more success. Today, there are a number of new projects going up and around downtown Duluth. The most impactful will likely be a retail and restaurant development called Parson’s Alley. Sitting high up along the northern end of Duluth’s Town Green, the residential development will include restaurants Taiyo Ramen, Simply Done Donuts and Good Word Brewing & Public House. And according to the Gwinnett Daily Post, several other commercial and office developments near the Town Green will include a yoga studio, a $64 million mixed-use project called District at Duluth and a very cool concept called Truck and Tap that combines food trucks and craft beers. I actually first reported on the Truck and Tap after visiting their original location in downtown Woodstock. Woodstock officials worked hard with the proprietor to allow the concept in which they sell craft beers and rent out space behind their building to food trucks. Patrons get a new restaurant every day. They get their food and then eat it inside the building while drinking the craft beer.
Can you tell I’m excited about this concept?
District in Duluth is under construction and sits about a mile from the Town Green. It will include hundreds of apartments, a pair of restaurant spaces and a dozen other storefronts.
So those are the businesses. Now for more customers. In tandem with this retail and office construction, two major residential projects are underway. One will go up just off the south end of the Town Green and will include 59 townhomes and 39 single-family homes. The other is a 36-unit townhome project going up next to City Hall. These developments will easily provide a couple hundred new nighttime and weekend customers for those businesses.
With more than $120 million in new private investment, the future looks bright in downtown Duluth.