Duluth gains "fringe-city" status, poised for economic/artistic growth

By KBJR News 1

October 10, 2013 Updated Oct 10, 2013 at 5:59 PM CST

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - According to a recent article in the online edition of "The Atlantic," there's a new class of "fringe city" that, among other things, has a strong sense of identity, and is defined by its natural beauty.

It also possesses a strong entrepreneurial spirit within its community, and when coupled with its thriving arts scene, is poised for success in the coming decade.

And Duluth is listed as one of those cities.

To understand what makes Duluth an attractive "fringe city" poised for growth, we begin a few miles up the Scenic North Shore, at the New Scenic Café.

Surrounded by a welcoming garden with Lake Superior its front yard, the busy café is filled with elements complimentary to its natural surroundings, and a touch of modern art.

It's this combination, not to mention the fine dining, that according to manager Wendy Durrwachter, "keeps everyone coming back. I think the atmosphere—part of it—is the charm. [It's] the comfort, but it's elegant at the same time," she added, taking time from a particularly busy lunch rush to explain concepts about a restaurant that regulars understand, yet still have difficulty putting to words.

This, says Durrwachter, is similar to the way Duluth attracts people, young and old, with varied tastes.

She says Duluth has a strong sense of identity that's seen in its historic buildings, but leaves room for modern growth.

"So many people care about the history. People will renovate an old building and keep the history there, yet make it new," said Durrwachter.

It's that room for fresh tastes, and a growing arts and music scene, that radio host and Zinema 2 manager Crystal Detlefsen says puts Duluth in a position for success.

"Just in the last year that I've known some people, there have been art gallery openings, there's now a record label in town—Chaperone Records," said Detlefsen, standing in the Zinema lobby. "It just celebrated its first birthday, but they're showing no signs of slowing down," she added.

Detlefsen, a Two Harbors native who has also made a documentary on the Duluth music and arts scene, says the Zenith City has all the attractions of a major metropolitan area, but provided its community with the space it needs to breathe.

"It's definitely got that 'small–town' feel, but in a 'big–town' setting," she said, throwing quotations in the air over the right phrases.

And while growth is always good for a city economically, there's no denying the concern some feel over Duluth possibly getting too big for its own good.

"My concern is that the crowding will take away from the charm of Duluth," said Durrwachter, laughing, but with a hint of seriousness. "It will be crowded on the Superior Hiking Trail, and in the Boundary Waters."

...a problem Duluth might well be welcoming in the coming years.

Other cities listed as "fringe cities" poised for growth are Burlington, Vermont, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Missoula, Montana.

Billy Wagness

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