Lake Superior Plaza

Duluth’s New Front Porch

Lake Superior Plaza has long served as an important gathering space for the public in downtown Duluth. However, the plaza had not had a major renovation since it was built in 1985 and had become uninviting and not very functional. ALLETE hired LHB to help redesign the plaza as part of a larger renovation of their headquarters.

In collaboration with ALLETE and stakeholders, LHB established goals to create a more inviting and beautiful space for the public and to serve as the entrance into downtown from the Lake Avenue bridge. The design also had to address unique site conditions, including its location on the roof of a parking garage.

The resulting 18,000 SF plaza acts as Duluth’s front porch, featuring solar-shaded swinging benches, a variety of seating options, and a huge wind turbine blade that acts as a landmark. The plaza complements the recently reconstructed Superior Street and achieves stakeholders’ goals by:

  • Providing a flexible space with a variety of outdoor rooms and seating types and sizes for large groups as well as intimate gatherings
  • Creating a more fluid pedestrian route to Lake Avenue and Canal Park
  • Adding native plantings and a greenroof system to support them
Workers planted trees into the greenroof soil cell system.

Room to Grow

At the surface it looks like a small spot for a big tree, but there is a lot going on underground. The tree pit system used at Lake Superior Plaza provides room for the roots to grow by creating an interconnected structural web that is filled with soil and extends under permeable pavers. Water and oxygen can reach tree roots while the parking garage structure below remains protected.

A series of images taken throughout the construction, reveals the hidden structures underneath.

A View from Above

These images show construction as the process took place. Starting from the existing Lake Superior Plaza with its cramped market space, through the first floor building addition, and highlighting all the layers of the greenroof and tree deck, up to near completion and the ending of the 2021 outdoor construction season in Duluth. Final images coming Spring 2022!

Time lapse video of the installation of the large wind turbine blade at the ALLETE Minnesota Power Building that took place on December 16, 2020.

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