Will 2017 be the year that Tower finally hits its stride? While economic development always comes with a degree of uncertainty, the signs are increasingly pointing to a very productive year ahead.
Here’s a rundown of some of the potential developments we’re hoping to see next year:
‰ Town homes and related development at the harbor— The pieces are coming together to finally bring major development to the city’s harbor. Orlyn Kringstad’s Tower Harbor Shores has made significant progress in bringing in investors on the project and it now looks like he’ll have enough interested buyers to advance the project to construction in the late spring of 2017. Assuming this project moves ahead, as now appears likely, it will be a major boost to the local construction industry and the city’s tax base.
‰ Main Street enhancements— Assuming funding from the IRRRB’s new Downtown and Business Corridor program is approved, the city will see some significant sprucing up along Main Street, including a new entrance sign, solar-powered traffic “calming” signs at both ends of town, an abundance of planters and flowers around the sidewalk trees, signage for bikers and pedestrians, additional crosswalks, and design funds for a welcome park around the civic center.
‰ New trails and walkways around the harbor— Funding is already in place for the design and construction of a walkway all around the harbor as well as connecting trails to the Hoodoo Point trail.
‰ Full Mesabi Trail connection from Tower right through to the Lake Vermilion Soudan Underground Mine State Park—The last gap in that trail system was the stretch between Soudan and the state park entrance, where the new segment of the Mesabi Trail is already in place up through the cell tower just off Hwy. 169. Tree clearing on the last segment is set to get underway as early as this month and the trail should be usable later in 2017. This is an exciting development that will provide direct trail access from the city right through the new state park. It’s going to get a lot of use.
‰ A solution to the lack of child care options in the community— This will be a top priority for the Tower Economic Development Authority in 2017. During a community meeting on school enrollment this fall, city officials heard loudly and clearly that the lack of child care in the community is one reason that parents are sending their kids elsewhere for school. The good news is, the city council has agreed to reactivate the TEDA board and put some dollars behind the effort. Creating child care options will create economic opportunity, help local school enrollment, and provide a critical service for parents of young children.
‰ A revamped marina property— This is one we can’t say too much about right now, because the talks are still preliminary. But there is the potential for a major reinvestment and reinvigoration of the marina property just downstream from the city’s harbor. If the current discussions bear fruit, it will be a big deal.
‰ A small manufacturing center for the city’s industrial park— The excitement surrounding some of the many projects already listed is putting Tower on the map for a number of small manufacturers. As many as five small manufacturers have already expressed interest in potentially locating in Tower. This will be another high priority for TEDA next year.
‰ Significant renovations at the Tower and Soudan apartment buildings owned and operated by the Vermilion Housing Corporation— These upgrades are desperately needed and will restore at least a dozen apartments, that are currently off the market due to deterioration, back into the local rental pool. That’s a very significant development given the housing shortage in the community.
Believe it or not, there are at least four other potentially significant projects that we haven’t even mentioned. But those may be a couple years out at this point. And given all the activity that very well may happen in 2017, it looks like Tower could have its hands full as it is.
The best news is that once the ball really starts rolling on a community’s revival, it tends to gain momentum. Progress attracts more progress. And the signs are definitely pointing to progress in 2017.