At the end of July FSI staff headed up north for a two-day retreat in Duluth, Minnesota. Here are some of our reflections and impressions.

“From its shoreline views to inviting architecture, there is much to behold in Duluth. However, my greatest admiration for the city came from its active dedication to pedestrian life. The vibrancy of Duluth was most apparent on the sidewalks which provide a starting point to access other pedestrian-friendly public spaces. Wayfinding signage with approximate walk times and popular destinations were easy to find and follow. It’s this kind of investment in pedestrian activity that encourages and simplifies the opportunity for folks to interact with their city. The landbridge with bountiful green space was also equipped with benches, trees providing shade, and sculptures that reinforce an attitude of leisure and enjoyment of the landscape. As a visitor, these nuances made me feel welcomed, intrigued, and inspired to explore all that Duluth has to offer and, combined, these are the precise elements that guarantee my return!” – Kim Club

“It was really interesting to see what our northern neighbors in Duluth have done with their public spaces.  I was pleasantly surprised to see helpful way-finding signs in the commercial-tourist areas, and most of all I was impressed with the large and well designed land bridge park that connects Downtown Duluth to the shoreline of Lake Superior over I-35.  We visited the parklet that is currently setup near the city, I’m looking forward to seeing more parklets that may come out of their program in coming years.  It was good to see some place-making ideas be applied in Duluth, they certainly added to the experience of visiting an already scenic area considering it’s old downtown and lakes. ” – Lilli Post Johnson

“My biggest impression from our Duluth retreat was the Blue Moon. I thought it was amazing to be in Duluth for a Full Moon, however being there for a Blue Full Moon was fantastic! I also enjoyed just being present with the FSI team.  I would have loved to been there for the whole time, however, I’m glad I were there for Darius pizza creation. I appreciate the wonderful space and the comfortable energy of our team.  Thank you. Peace” – Melvin Giles

“Sand, sky, water, moon. The basic necessities.” – Robyn Hendrix

“Duluth has such beauty and uniqueness. The small town feel while still being a large metropolis. The thing that has stuck with me since leaving Duluth has been the land bridge or interstate lid depending on your name preference. Large and beautiful it is, yet it seems like such a distant possibility as we think about it for our projects. Yet it has been a beautiful landscape in Duluth for many years demonstrating that it’s possible. The fact that it creates plentiful green space instead of trench of highway is my favorite aspect of it.” – Darius Gray

“Retreating to Duluth was wonderful for FSI.  While Duluth’s virtues were not unknown to us, the City exceeded expectations.  We were able to experience a memorial, a landbridge, pedestrian facilities, a parklet, historic preservation of buildings and commercial nodes, vibrant streets, and beautiful public parks.  It was an immersion of great value for us, as our projects involve many of these ideas.  There is no substitution for discussing landbridges while sitting in a landbridge park.  We made progress on parklet planning while sitting in a parklet.  And we reflected on how communities and cities speak to themselves and visitors about historical traumas perpetuated in the name of white supremacy, as we were given a spontaneous tour of downtown Duluth concluding at the memorial for those who died in the 1920 lynching.  I have no doubt that our conversations were enriched by the stimulation of these experiences.  In this way, our time in Duluth was a reflection of what FSI is aiming to do:  Provide real life experiences that improve the quality of a community’s deliberation about public space and city life.” – Lars Christiansen

Reflections: Summer Staff Retreat to Duluth