Duluth is hot right now, just like it was 50 years ago.
Not temperature hot, of course, but “great place” hot.
Here’s the evidence: Duluth received top honors from national outdoors and bike magazines, the outgoing mayor was touted for rejuvenating the city, a national retail company built a new corporate headquarters downtown, population has grown in the 21st Century and tourists flood the place with money during the summer.
But I guess this is nothing new.
On a recent walk through the historic Board of Trade building on First Street, I stumbled on an old poster-sized black and white photo. It was hidden behind a fern near the entrance to a sandwich shop.
It showed how hot Duluth was in 1966.
The old photo shows a view of downtown Duluth from its main thoroughfare Superior Street. The Board of Trade Building can be seen in the upper left corner along with an empty parking lot and period sedans.
What caught my eye was the billboard on the right: “Duluth: A good place to live, work and play.”
Some Chamber of Commerce slogans never get old.
Of course, shortly after this old photo was taken Duluth plunged into horrible decline along with the rest of the industrialized midwest. Major manufacturing plants closed, infrastructure wore out, Lake Superior needed a clean-up and winter was still winter.
But now things seem to be back on track.
America has declared manufacturing obsolete. The national economy is now based on good restaurants, on-line shopping, extensive trail networks, quality health care and ample parking.
That empty parking lot my old photo? It’s now a four-story parking ramp.
And that’s not all: Duluth is one high-quality Mexican restaurant away from eatery greatness; Internet connections are fast and UPS delivers on snowy days; bikers will soon be able to ride from one end of town to the other without seeing a stoplight; and I think there are 12 hospitals in a two block radius downtown.
And which American city will benefit the most from global warming?
Do I really need to tell you?
Duluth: It’s still a good place to live, work and play.