Boxes are labeled and a moving company is called for yet another prominent downtown Duluth business as they make the hard, yet necessary decision to move their business up the hill.
The lack of action by the City of Duluth to manage homelessness and drug use in downtown is having a tangible impact on the city.
We were recently forwarded a letter written by a business explaining the circumstances behind why they moved out of downtown. As we’ve reported the primary concerns are for the safety of their employees and clients visiting their property.
The letter, dated October 5th states:
(Identifying details have been removed)
Our company is currently in the process of moving from downtown Duluth to Hermantown. We are leaving downtown because changes to the environment in the downtown area have made it very difficult to provide a safe, comfortable, problem-free environment. Our employees have been trapped in our alley parking lot by an extremely mentally ill individual blocking the exit and being threatening, in addition to finding broken booze bottles, drug needles, and even human excrement in the front and back entryways.
Our back-parking lot has played host to people who have set up, and lived in, a tent in one incident, and an inoperable car in another. We have also had employees unlock their vehicles, only to have homeless individuals climb into the passenger seat to ask for money.
While we empathize with the mentally ill, addicted, and homeless, we just don’t find these situations and the current downtown environment conducive for the safety of our staff or conducting business.
While shocking, these incidents are no longer uncommon downtown. Some might argue that this is common in all cities these days, but does that make it right? Should people have to remember to look down when exiting a building so not to accidentally step in human excrement? Should you have to fear that when you unlock your car a stranger will open and enter the passenger side begging for money? Do we have to wait until a mentally ill person not receiving proper care physically harms or murders someone leaving work before city officials will start taking this seriously?
In about a month, the sun will be setting in the early evening, often before some leave their offices. Should hiring private security to accompany employees to their vehicles in the evening be a standard business expense? Should businesses be expected to pay for the city’s negligence?
City leaders and those running for local offices love to say how they will “grow the economy” and welcome businesses to our region.
The Business Development section on the City of Duluth’s website features a list of bullet points that are more of a to-do list than a “what they are doing list”. They mention “Key activities include providing technical assistance to businesses and entrepreneurs, facilitating public land purchases and sales, supporting infrastructure development, and site redevelopment.” but ask most developers in the city and they will tell you working with the city, as seen with the COSTCO project, is a struggle.
Another item on the list is “Eliminate contamination and blight in our City by connecting good projects with necessary clean-up and redevelopment resources.” Ironically this bullet point is linked to 2011 article in a publication called Finance & Commerce. It sure does seem like it’s been a decade since city administration has paid much mind to downtown Duluth with the exception of accommodating hospital projects.
Sharing the stories of what is happening to businesses in the downtown area is an important way to inform and hopefully influence city leaders to take action. If you have experienced circumstances similar to those described in the letter featured here or other situations that have concerned you, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org