Blog Downtown Greater Council

Bell Bank Signs Lease Agreement for Historic Temple Opera Building

March 10, 2020

Fargo, N.D.-based Bell Bank has signed an agreement with Duluth builder/developer Titanium Partners to lease all three floors of Duluth’s historic Temple Opera Block building at 201 East Superior Street. Bell’s leaders anticipate opening a full-service bank in the building by late 2020, following the completion of major renovations.

Temple Opera Building in 1890, five years before a fire destroyed the top three floors.
Zenith City Press

“We are extremely excited to be part of the continued development and growth of Duluth’s economy and the revitalization of the historic downtown district,” added longtime Duluth banker Tim McShane, recently hired as president of Bell Bank for the Twin Ports market. “We certainly see a bright future in the Twin Ports, and our lease of the Temple Opera Block space shows Bell’s long-term commitment to business and to the community.”

Originally built in 1889, the opera house burned down just five years later, and the Freemasons (who gave the building its name) moved to a different temple location. The Temple Opera building also once housed public reading rooms, which eventually became Duluth’s public library. For many years, the building was topped by a distinctive Moorish dome, but the tower and the top three floors were removed in 1942. Today, the building still retains its unique architectural features, with carved red sandstone and brownstone from the Amnicon River Quarries.

“I am thrilled to officially welcome Bell Bank to Duluth,” said Mayor Emily Larson. “Through historic levels of private sector investments across the city, Duluth is transforming and moving forward. We are excited to see what Bell’s future holds, as this is yet another sign of optimism for Duluth’s bright economic future.”

“Having a long-term commitment from a tenant like Bell Bank in the building is a great honor,” added Brian Forcier, president and CEO of Titanium Partners, a Duluth-based real estate investment and development firm that owns the Temple Opera Block. “We will begin extensive remodeling to the building immediately, while seeking to preserve its classic nature.”

Headquartered in Fargo, N.D., and chartered in 1966, Bell Bank is the nation’s tenth largest privately held bank. Bell has banking and mortgage locations in west central Minnesota and the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area and recently hired McShane and a team of experienced banking professionals who will build Bell’s footprint in the Twin Ports market.

Bell’s facilities team has experience working with historic spaces. In 2014, Bell moved its downtown Fargo banking location and wealth management division to a renovated historic building on Broadway, Fargo’s main downtown thoroughfare. Bell also has a long history of philanthropy, arts and community support, with major sponsorships with the historic Fargo Theatre and the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and a unique Pay It Forward initiative that has empowered more than $15 million in employee giving.


February 14, 2020

What you probably don't know about the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota Duluth Retail Center

Did you know that the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota Duluth Retail Center offers a variety of classes and events that are free and open to the public?  You don’t need to be a Blue Cross Blue Shield member; it’s part of our way of giving back to our community! Our classes and events are a great way for non-members to become familiar with the Blue Cross Retail Center and what we offer. In addition to providing classes on fitness and healthy living, we also offer Medicare Workshops twice per week.  Attendees receive information on the different Medicare coverage choices that are available, and how to choose the option that is right for them. Interested individuals can also meet one-on-one with a retail team associate after the workshop should they need to have additional questions answered. While we are always on the lookout for new classes, our 2020 classes consist of CPR/AED/First Aid, Estate Planning, Senior Yoga, Tai Chi and a series of classes with Profile by Sanford. We also partner with local aging agencies to provide informational sessions and “lunch and learn” sessions related to subjects such as Dementia Friendly Living, Diabetes Management, and Living Well with Chronic Conditions.

Registration for classes can be done via our website, in person: 425 West Superior Street, or by phone: 218-529-9199.

Stop in and see us today!

Get to Know your Clean & Safe Ambassadors

July 9, 2019

Get to Know your Clean & Safe Ambassadors


The Duluth Downtown Waterfront District has a Clean & Safe Team designed to promote greater hospitality and safety our central business district. From Mesaba Avenue to 10th Avenue East and Canal Park to Second Street, you’ll find team members making your world:

  • Cleaner - by controlling litter and removing weeds and graffiti
  • Safer - with uniformed visibility, and by reducing panhandling and escorting employees or visitors.
  • Friendlier - by providing directions, providing assistance and furnishing information on retail services.

The GDC would like to "introduce" you to one of the many Clean & Safe Team Members.  This week, meet Gary Houdek- our Superior Street Reconstruction Navigator


1. How long have you worked for the Clean & Safe Team?

Gary has worked for the Clean and Safe Team for about 3 years now, before he owned and managed Jitter’s Coffee Company for about 17 years.


2. Are you from Duluth/how long have you lived here?

Gary has lived in Duluth for about 21 years, he is originally from Virginia, MN.


3. What is your favorite part about this job?

Gary’s favorite part is working with and for the people. He states that he is such a people person and “needs a daily dose of conversation and to be around people and the downtown area otherwise he feels a sense of withdrawal.”


4. What was the first job you have ever had?

Gary’s first job was at Tonkadale Greenhouse.


5. Who is someone that has inspired you most in your career?

Gary says that he has always been self-motivated throughout his career, but as an entrepreneur he says that Dennis Lamkin was an inspiration and taught him that confidence is key in order to be successful.


6. What is your favorite hobby when you are not working?

Gary’s hobbies differ within the seasons, however for the summer time he finds himself enjoying gardening the best!



7.  If you didn’t work for the clean and safe team, what would your ultimate dream job be?

Gary’s dream job would to be a barista in a coffee shop somewhere.


8. We asked Scott Jenkins, Head of Operations for Clean & Safe, to describe Gary. He said:

Gary is an anchor to our downtown business community, being a former business owner himself.  He knows so many people in the downtown and has a finger on the pulse of the downtown vibe. Gary is always upbeat, has smile and greeting for everyone and lends his knowledge and a helping hand to anyone needing assistance.  Gary literally epitomizes the phrase “this is MY downtown”.


Clean & Safe service is scheduled daily throughout the District with a goal of providing an overall package of service spread uniformly throughout the District. The Clean & Safe Team maximizes its visibility with easily recognizable bright neon and royal blue uniforms. You’ll find them making rounds on foot, bicycle or Segway through all public rights of way, including the Skywalk.


Contact the Clean & Safe Team at 218-727-8317 or 218-390-8899

Duluth Trading Company - Poking Average in the Eye

June 12, 2019


Duluth Trading Company

Established in 1989, Duluth Trading Company has been providing hardworking folks workwear fit for the toughest jobs. Whether you’re looking for durable work pants, are in need of a No-Yank® Tank that won’t reveal too much of yourself to the neighbors while you’re gardening or are sick and tired of your undergarments lacking in performance, Duluth Trading Company has what you need to feel safe, secure, comfortable, and at ease with the products you wear every day.

Duluth Trading Company has blossomed into much more than just a catalog company and has continued to expand across the United States since opening its store on Superior Street in 2014. With the grand opening of our 54th store in Madison, Alabama, Duluth Trading shows no signs of slowing down its progress in bringing people the ingenious clothing and gear they deserve.

And with Father’s Day just around the corner, we have some fun events planned for the weekend. On Saturday, June 15, you’ll get a gift with your $50 purchase – a Duluth Trading Larry Flashlight, while supplies last! We’ll also have donuts for dads throughout the day on Sunday, June 16. It may not be everything you dads deserve, but it’s a sign of appreciation for all the hard work you do both at work and at home.

So, whether you just happen across our downtown Duluth store or have always wanted to shop here; bring yourself, your family, and your friends to 300 East Superior Street to experience quality clothing, quality products, and quality workers who can guide you to your perfect fit. There are ample meters just up the street where you can use the new parking app, or park in the ramp behind Sheraton and we will validate parking up to 2 hours free. We are excited to continue our mission of poking average in the eye!

Duluth Trading is located at 300 East Superior Street in the HART district of Downtown Duluth.


It's all about HART

May 14, 2019

Located in the center of the Historic Arts & Theatre District, Hucklebeary is a fun new retail shop in Downtown Duluth. Located at 106 E Superior Street, we are in the HART of all the construction action happening during phase 2, but we are enjoying the show! Many customers have commented in how easy it is to access our shop and get around downtown even thru construction. Parking is FREE for under an hour and there is even a pedestrian cross-walk directly out our front door to help customers get from Duluth Coffee Company & Fannie Rose over to Hucklebeary, Old Town Antiques and access the lakewalk. When you arrive at Hucklebeary, you will immediately be greeted by our shop dog Bear, who will be wagging his tail with excitement! He will then guide you around the shop where you will find quirky greeting cards, fun novelty gifts and whimsical wrapping paper. Hucklebeary also offers workshops and hosts fun community events in our creative space. We love being a space where people can come, gather, and learn something new together!

This week, we are coming to you! Join us this Thursday, May 16th from 10AM-11AM for coffee & crafting at Duluth’s Largest Coffee Break. We will be at Lake Place Park teaching the techniques of envelope making and demonstrating fun uses for gift wrap. It's a great opportunity to visit participating businesses with a BOGO promo for Get Downtown Week and you won’t want to miss Hucklebeary's promotion; buy one sheet of gift wrap or rolled paper, and get one FREE!

We hope you continue to come downtown and we look forward to building our community together thru HART!

Written by Emily Ekstrom, owner of Hucklebeary

Store Hours: Thursday - Saturday: 10am-6pm; Sunday: 11am-4pm


XMT - 3/Integrated Hypnotic Coaching

February 13, 2019


XMT - 3 Training with Eric Franklin

This blog is written by Eric Franklin, the owner of XMT - 3 Training/Integrated Hypnotic Coaching located at 230 W. Superior Street.

This New Year can be the beginning of a new direction in your life! Establishing and maintaining healthy routines and behaviors leads to an improvement in quality of life. Using the new found energy of the New Year is the perfect time to begin the journey of change!

With over 10 years experience in the fitness industry and nearly 4 years as a fitness business owner, I feel qualified in suggesting a new approach this New Year. If you want to begin to incorporate healthy diet/exercise practices into your life, there is one element that is crucial to your success: planning.

You have heard the ole’ adage: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!

Its true.

Whether your goal is to lose a couple pounds, prepare for Grandma’s this summer or just challenge yourself, you will need a detailed plan to succeed. XMT-3 Training is offering the “4 Questions Fitness Template” to help guide you to success this New Year!

Bonus: I have also made available a quick bodyweight fitness workout video that will get you on your feet this New Year!

Have a great day!

“4 Questions Fitness Template”

New Year Bodyweight Workout (Download):

Transformational Year Ahead for Downtown Duluth

January 9, 2019

We are optimistic about a transformational year ahead of us in Downtown Duluth.  There is much excitement with growth, development and the pursuit of renewing the Special Service District. Read more from Kristi Stokes as reported for the DNT:


Greater Downtown Council President’s View


We are embarking on a year of historic change for downtown Duluth. That may sound like a grand statement, but the reality is we have several exciting projects that will forever change the landscape and skyline of our central business district.


When the Superior Street reconstruction project got underway earlier this year, we thought that was a transformational time for the core of our community. After all, crews were digging up and replacing infrastructure that dated back to the 1880s. Plus, we were revitalizing our main street, something that had not occurred since the mid-1980s. Now that the first phase of the project is complete, we know it has reenergized our district. Businesses can show a sense of pride in their surroundings. We no longer need to apologize for heaving bricks, broken bollards, rusting receptacles, and missing benches — at least in the first phase of construction. It is hoped this investment will further spark additional growth and investment by our business and property owners.


As we move into phase two of the Superior Street reconstruction, we have so many more transformational projects in the pipeline. We are not just looking down at what is taking place under Superior Street, we are looking up at the unprecedented development that will be occurring above the street, particularly in the Medical District.


In 2019, Essentia Health expects to break ground on the largest private investment in Duluth’s history. The $800 million project, spanning four years, includes a new hospital tower, clinic, and outpatient surgery center, as well as related infrastructure. It actually reduces Essentia’s overall footprint and opens up sites for additional development.


Meanwhile, St. Luke’s also is pursuing an expansion in the Medical District. At $300 million, the St. Luke’s project is slated to begin next year as well and span a 10-year timeframe. It includes such improvements as tripling the capacity of the emergency department, expanding the capacity of the cardiac cath labs, rebuilding a parking ramp, expanding outpatient services, and adding an inpatient tower.


This shows such a strong commitment from our stakeholders, and the projects will have a tremendous positive impact on our downtown neighborhood. Both of the medical facilities are hopeful they can be a catalyst for additional growth and development in the area.


It hasn’t taken long for that to happen. A 204-unit residential highrise already is proposed at 333 E. Superior St. This promises to be a home run for our community and our downtown. It would bring needed housing to our district and further assist with the recruitment and retention of employees in the Medical District and beyond. Plus, it is to include street-level retail space, which we hope will be filled by an urban market.


Just one of these projects would make me feel optimistic about the future of our downtown. But to have four occurring simultaneously would be unprecedented for our downtown.


To put it into perspective, we have seen nearly $1 billion of private investment in the Duluth Downtown Waterfront District over the last 12 years. Now, more than $1 billion will be brought into our district with these projects alone — and they are all slated to start in 2019.


It will mean strong demand for our construction trades. It shows a commitment to patient care. It shows a commitment to the community and housing. And it puts us on a path to a very bright future.





Kristi Stokes is president of the Greater Downtown Council in Duluth. She can be reached at (218) 727-8549 or She wrote this at the invitation of the News Tribune Opinion page.

Minnesota Minimum Wage Increase

December 12, 2018

The following is a blog written by new GDC member Audacity HR

Thank you Stacy Johnston!

Minnesota Minimum Wage Increase

Heads Up, GDC Employers!

The New Year brings a promise of fresh starts and new beginnings. This January, it also brings an increase to the Minnesota minimum wage. GDC employers, be prepared to stay in compliance in 2019!

The current Minnesota minimum wage for a large employer is $9.65 and $7.87 for a small employer. What is the difference between a small and large employer in Minnesota? A large employer is defined as any enterprise with an annual gross revenue of $500,000 or more; a small employer is any enterprise with annual gross revenue of less than $500,000.

Minnesota's minimum-wage rates will be adjusted for inflation January 1, 2019, to $9.86 an hour for large employers and $8.04 an hour for other state minimum wages (small employer, training wage and youth wage).

This table shows the current minimum wage
and the adjustment starting 1.1.19:

HR thought leader, Stacy Johnston of Audacity HR, provides innovative human resource solutions with a mission to support organizations in understanding and engaging their biggest competitive advantage… their employees! Johnston is a licensed attorney and holds the SHRM-CP and PHR credentials. She is on the Board at the Lake Superior Chapter of the Association for Talent Development (ATD) and a member of the Northland Human Resource Association (NHRA) and the National Speakers Association (NSA).