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Pier B project changes design... and date... and gets an official name.

Pier B/LaFarge Cement Plant's current state

Here's a lengthy update on the Pier B project for all you people who are wondering what in the world is happening with that project. It's a lengthy one... but there's a lot to report!

The $34 million (now $29 million) Pier B project at the old LaFarge Cement Plant/Pier B on Duluth's iconic waterfront (near Bayfront Festival Park) has once again made it into the news! It's good news this time... well... to a certain extent depending on how you view it!

The latest rendering of "The Silos at Pier B" resort project.

First off, the project official has a name... drum roll... keep going... the 140 room resort project will officially be known as The Silos at Pier B. The project is NOT dead and will be moving forward with construction finally beginning this coming summer (keep those fingers crossed) as long as all of the financing falls into plan. For some it seems like it took years to get this point... well... because it did. Developers of the project say the delay in construction was largely due to the fact that it was difficult to secure funding for the project.

The former design of the project, before the most recent update.

The fact that the development finally has a name is a huge positive being it will officially give an identity to the project... more so than it's largely industrial name. There's been some pretty large changes to the project design wise however... design changes that resulted in $5 million dollars in savings. If you recall the design (above) before the most recent altercations (way above), it was a pretty modern, nine story structure that was of a somewhat iconic design.

Well, what happened in order to lower construction costs (a.k.a those $5 million dollars in savings) and in order to be able to better secure funding for the project, the project was cut in half (height wise) and essentially those halves were placed on the ground next to each other. So now instead of having a nine story structure, we have a four story structure that spans a greater distance on the ground, with developers stating that is more practical in it's use. It now has a more marina/craftsman style of design to it, reminiscent to some of the designs features throughout hotels like Canal Park inn and Suites and the Comfort Suites in Canal Park. The Silos at Pier B in addition to the hotel, will still include event space and a restaurant on site. Changes also are being for the slip, which is now proposed to be shallower so that in the winter it freezes in order to create a large outdoor skating rank. Developers are currently working with the DNR on the logistics of that plan. One additional element is a foot bridge that will link the hotel to the Bayfront Festival Park and therefore continue the Lakewalk along the waterfront.

The Silos at Pier B is being brought into the spotlight right now due to the fact that DEDA just approved its FIFTH extension for the developers. The most recent extension was set to expire on March 31st, but developers now have until June 30th to complete plans for the development. This extension (originally given in 2011) gives developers access to develop DEDA land next to to the LaFarge Cement Plant.

Developers say the project is unique in the fact that the hotel literally is right on the water with direct access to dockage, not to mention that the restaurant itself will only being 25 feet away from the waterfront. There even will be docks available for those boaters who just want to pull up, grab a bite to eat, and leave. One thing to be noted in the design plans is the fact that the silos are no longer planned to be used... in this phase of the project. Originally they were intended to become condos... but now developers say that in the future the silo space may be converted into additional hotel rooms, condos, retail space, and/or even have a night club construction it's top floor. The possibilities seem endless.

If all goes according to plan over the next couple of months, construction could begin as soon as this summer, with a one year time span for construction, resulting in a summer of 2015 resort opening.

An early design iteration for the proposed "Pier B" project.

Our View

Can you remember back to what originally was envisioned for the site? To be honest... it's been a multitude of things over the years. This is DRASTICALLY different which probably makes sense to the reason as to why some people are let down. We know that there is a little pain in our heart to see a great nine story structure be cut in half and completely altered in design. There's also a little bigger pain in our heart to see that the retail component of the site has been riddened in it's entirety. If you remember the first plans for the project, developers envisioned an almost mall like community of merchants and retailers on the site, along with a hotel component and condominiums. They even planned to create a rotunda like space with the restored Viking Ship from Leif Erickson Park acting as a focal point to the retail space. Rumors originally were swirling around that the developers were hoping to attract destination retailers like Bass Pro Shops or even Ikea (we think that one was a little bit of a stretch). But over the years the project has been redesigned... and redesigned... and cut back... and downsized... and once again redesigned to be brought to the current state that you see it in today.

A rendering of the initial proposed "Pier B" project.

But hey, let us not be mistaken at "haters" of the Pier B project. We still love it with all our retail development driven heart of ours. We're not complaining about the project by any means or to any extent! We're just laying down the facts here people. Bottom line is is that this project still benefits the community, no matter what state it ends up in. It'll be a great project regardless of the final design. Keep in mind that this project also includes the revitalization of the deteriorating and largely unused slip, not to mention section of land, and the addition of public waterfront space. Currently there is NO public waterfront space at this site, especially when it comes to a marina, in this area. It also sets the stage for future development in this area, ultimately expanding Duluth's waterfront and Canal park district.

Bottom line... The Silos at Pier B (even if they don't use the silos but do in their name) will be a great addition to the Duluth waterfront community. Much praise goes out to the developers for their countless hours upon hours of work over the years to make this project a reality. We can't wait to see what the future holds for the site.

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