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Updated: City preps for industrial site work

The city of Superior is aligning itself for federal stimulus dollars that could jumpstart the local economy now by making room for future industry.

The Plan Commission on Wednesday approved a preliminary plat to lay the groundwork for developing the Winter Street Industrial Park. The park and a tax increment finance district were created in 2002 to establish new industrial sites in the city. The city hasn't had the resources to build the infrastructure to make the park ready for development, but officials are hoping to get the project underway this summer with the help of the federal Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The plan calls for creating 3- to 4-acre lots with the flexibility for larger parcels if necessary, said Port and Planning Director Jason Serck. Up to six new industrial sites could be created north of the AMSOIL building at the westernmost end of Winter Street near the waterfront.

Mayor Dave Ross said the industrial sites have an added bonus for businesses that want a "stunning" view from their offices.

"If you were an industrial customer locating on Lot 2 or Lot 2, block 1, these are panoramic views of the harbor that are the finest in the whole harbor," Ross said of the lots along the waterfront on the northeast side of the industrial park. "If you stood around the whole harbor, whether on the Duluth side or the Superior side, it would be rare to get the view you would have at that spot ... When I went out and looked at this property, I was just stunned at how gorgeous it was. You had a million-dollar view no matter what direction you look, up the river or toward the bridge.

"It's too bad in some ways that it's industrial," Ross said.

However, because of existing industry in the area including Midwest Energy's coal storage facility, Serck said, the site is unsuitable for housing or other public uses.

While the site does include some wetlands, most are degraded and the city is working with the U.S. Corps of Engineers and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on those issues, he said.

The overall site includes an out-lot adjacent to the waterfront. The area is included in a dredge management plan for the Twin Ports, which makes it eligible for a storage facility for dredge spoils, Serck said.

"Don't get me wrong," he said. "It doesn't mean it's going to be built there tomorrow. There's going to be lots of public input on this ... we're also looking for other places for disposal."

Councilor Ed Anderson, a member of the Plan Commission, said the original shoreline of the Duluth-Superior harbor looked much different than it does today. In fact, some communities in the world have reconstructed their entire harbors to make them more efficient, he said.

"Many of our docks and slips, and Barker's Island itself, were actually manufactured," Anderson said. "Much of our harbor has been built using dredge spoils ... now I know there are some environmental concerns about dredge spoils, but we're talking $25 million to site a new dredge spoils disposal site. That's a lot of money. We've got a spot right there that can hold the spoils."

The site would remain in the harbor and could handle many years of dredging, Anderson said. He said it would also be a logical site to consider for intermodal transportation in the Twin Ports.

"It's theoretical at this point," Anderson said.

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