New Duluth office tower holds ‘symbolic importance’ for city

Women’s fashion retailer maurices unveiled the design of its new headquarters in downtown Duluth Tuesday morning. The $70 million-plus project is the largest downtown commercial development in Duluth’s history, according to city officials.

A rendering of the new maurices headquarters building in downtown Duluth, expected to be completed by Dec. 2015.

At 11 stories it will also be one of the city’s taller buildings, covering an entire city block that Mayor Don Ness said will be the “cornerstone” of the western edge of downtown Duluth.

The building will be called, simply, maurices headquarters. The chain was founded in Duluth in 1931 and has since grown to 900 stores across the U.S. and Canada.  The company currently employs 425 people in Duluth, scattered across three buildings.

The new building will be able to house more than 600 employees, “which allows us to add a significant number of jobs in future years,” said company president George Goldfarb. “And trust me, our growth is not stopping.” He said the company expects to hit $1 billion in revenues later this year.

But Duluth Mayor Don Ness said the new building is much more than simply a new corporate headquarters. “This project holds extraordinary symbolic importance,” he said, “to where Duluth is, and that sense of optimism in our community.”

For several years now Ness has touted a new sense of optimism in a city that suffered through a severe economic downturn in the 1980s and 1990s. Ness said maurices’ decision to invest $50 million to stay in downtown Duluth is reflective of that new confidence.

An aerial view of the new maurices headquarters building planned for downtown Duluth.

The project was one of the big winners in a state grant competition in 2012. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) kicked in a $8.5 million grant to help pay for a city-owned parking garage that will occupy four floors. The city will contribute about $11.5 million, although that money will be fronted by the company and recouped through parking revenues, said Duluth Economic Development Authority Director Chris Eng.

Demolition of existing buildings at the construction site begins in April. The new tower is expected to open in December, 2015.