History and the city's changing landscape were among the highlights announced during Mayor Jim Paine's second "State of the City" address Monday, April 29.
Paine said over several weeks working with the directors and boards of the Superior Public Museums, Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center and the Superior Public Library, they've come up with a plan to let people check out local history by going to the library to access the museums.
Details of how the program will work are still being worked out, according to Hayes Scriven, director of the Bong Center. However, he said a small number of general admission passes will be available to check out at the library, which allows the passholder free admission to the center, and when they finish the tour they would have to return the pass to the library.
"The reason that we're doing this is we're doing it, in part, is because we get hotel/motel tax from the city," Scriven said. "So we're trying to offer another benefit to the local residents ... to experience the center."
How many free admissions would be limited to the number of passes available to check out at the library, Scriven said. The program won't be available until summer.
"No citizen of Superior should ever be denied access to their local museums because of cost," Paine said, announcing a new program that will allow library card holders to reserve and check out admissions to the Bong Center, Fairlawn Mansion and the S.S. Meteor for free.
"History is important," Paine said. "It is our story and our identity, and we have an obligation to learn it, protect it and pass it along to each generation. My own love of history inspired much of my journey in politics, but not in a positive way."
With the loss of the Palace Theater and Central High School - both razed more than a decade ago - Paine said he knows those iconic buildings can never be replaced.
But something can be done to fill the vacant lots the historic buildings left behind.
The announcement that Cobblestone Hotel would fill the Palace lot was a first step to putting the loss behind us, Paine said.
"Now I can formally announce that we will soon be completing the next step and filling the Central lot as well," Paine announced during the speech. "We have begun work and negotiations with P&R Properties to develop the former site of Central High School with a mixed-use development featuring a blend of market-rate and student housing with retail space, bringing in even more downtown housing and the new shops and restaurants that so many citizens have demanded," Paine said.
"With the City Council's help, we will look to break ground this summer and open a new multi-million-dollar development by the summer of 2020 whose design will evoke the memory of this iconic building and kick off a bright new future for our downtown."
The project is still in the planning stages, according to Jason Serck, economic development, port and planning director. Serck said it is the exact type of project the city was hoping to develop there and works well with recent development of the area, which includes the 56-unit Onyx building and Grand Central Plaza, which created 50 units of senior housing.
"My plan is to build a mixed-use apartment building with retail," said Ryan Nelson of P&R Properties, which built the Village, Onyx and 320 North apartment buildings. "It's going to be about 175,000 square feet."
He said the building will have 130-135 apartments with retail space on the first floor facing Belknap Street. The building will feature smaller units for people who don't want or need a lot of living space.
"We're going to have amenities that would accommodate the smaller square footage units to give people a chance to get out, roam around the building," Nelson said. "We're going to have a nice fitness facility ... a club room that would have ample space to accommodate a lot of residents at one time."