Destination by Design: Duluth’s Pier B Waterfront Resort

Pier B Resort

An old cement plant, complete with giant storage silos and mooring slips for Lake Superior freighters is poised to become one of the most sought-after resort destinations in the Upper Midwest.

And DSGW Architects is at the center of the project.

Developers have worked for five years to make a go of the $29 million Pier B waterfront complex, with a 140-room hotel at the center. Now, they are close to winning approval from the City of Duluth. The project could break ground in a few months.

“It’s exciting. We’re designing this little village, and it’s right at our community’s front door,” says John Gerzina, the DSGW partner who has been working on the project.

“It will be one of the first things you see when you drive into Duluth on the interstate,” Gerzina says. “It’s iconic, so we need to create something that makes people say, ‘We have to go there.’”

DSGW has risen to the task, with plans for the hotel, a pool overlooking Duluth’s harbor, a spa, a banquet center, outdoor patios and bar and restaurant offerings. Environmental cleanup of the former freighter slips will make them usable as marina and day-mooring spots for pleasure boats.

Designs even call for access to the waterfront, allowing kayakers to launch from the resort property and explore the harbor.

“It’s a million-dollar view, and we wanted to maximize that,” Gerzina says. “Even the hotel rooms that face the hillside and the city have million-dollar views. There really won’t be a bad view in the place.”

The Pier B project is the latest in DSGW’s history of creating destination venues on what had been Duluth’s industrial waterfront. The firm’s work includes the amphitheater at Bayfront Festival Park, recently voted Minnesota’s best outdoor music venue in the Star-Tribune’s “Best of Minnesota” list.

The Pier B development will link to Duluth’s Lakewalk, helping complete the city’s goal of expanding walking and biking path from one end of the city to the other. And while the complex will be distinctly high-end, Gerzina says that he and the developers are sensitive to create a project that pays homage to Duluth’s historic waterfront.

“It will have a waterfront look that will be cool,” Gerzina says. He recounts how, in the planning process, he and Giuliani climbed to the top of one of the silos—which will be incorporated as design elements—and watched a 1,000-foot lake freighter gracefully making a turn in the bay

“You’re going to be able to kick back in a lawn chair or in a hot tub on the property and see that,” he says. “It’s going to be amazing.”