New resort hotel opens in Duluth tourism boom

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) – A new resort hotel that opened Thursday on the Lake Superior waterfront is the latest sign of the tourism boom in Duluth.

The Pier B Resort is also emblematic of Duluth’s economic evolution from an industrial port city to one that relies more on health care, education and, increasingly, tourism

The hotel opened just in time for the 40th annual running of Grandma’s Marathon this weekend, which is expected to draw more than 60,000 people to Duluth, the event’s biggest crowd ever.

Pier B is built on the site of a former cement terminal. Four 100-foot-tall cement silos still stand next to the resort.

“Everything we have here was representative of what would have been here in the old days,” said Alex Giuliani, one of the $32 million hotel’s co-developers.

“You can see the big heavy timbers, the metal, the glass,” Giuliani said. “We wanted to be true to that.”

Another indicator of Duluth’s tourism boom is revenue the city collects from a tourism tax it adds to hotel and bar and restaurant tabs. The city’s take has more than doubled in the past decade.

It jumped 21 percent to an all-time high of $10.6 million last year. Tax proceeds get funneled back into attractions and will be used to help fund new investments in outdoor recreation along the St. Louis River.

Tourism is “paying for the investment that’s been happening in our community,” said Duluth Chamber of Commerce President David Ross, “with the hotels and the brew houses and all of these wonderful attractions that we as citizens of Duluth enjoy while the tab is being picked up by visitors.”

Perched just 20 feet from the lake’s edge, Pier B offers 140 rooms, many with views of Duluth’s iconic lift bridge, and a marina.

The developers hope to convert the silos into a brewpub or retail space. The city and state kicked in about $5.5 million in public funding to help cover redevelopment costs and to clean up contaminated soils.

Several attractions, including the Glensheen historic mansion and the SS William A. Irvin ore boat, reported record visits last year.