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April 15-19, 2008

Kent Worley is an eminent landscape architect having helped design perhaps the most noteworthy development in Duluth for the past fifty years - the I-35 corridor.


Having lived 37 years in the Ordean School neighborhood and having spent my design career in Duluth dealing with land planning issues from Spirit Mountain to Interstate 35, I am seriously concerned about serious  short and long term site space limitations at the two proposed high schools.  The following may help summarize these concerns. 


Now relocated to Grand Rapids, Michigan, my concern is solely that of responsible land planning for what I have always considered a wonderful city, and believe there is no reason for Duluth to accept out-of-date and below state and acceptable standard public developments which can become burdon and safety hazzards, to the School District, the City, neighborhoods and Duluth citizens.  Please feel free to respond with questions you may have regarding the following points.  


Has anybody looked at 21st century high schools to see what is being built and how these are being planned?

Many of us have, and what ISD 709 is settling for compared to what is being built is not only shameful, it is outrageously so far below acceptable standards that it is difficult to understand why this City or District would be satisfied with what Johnson Controls and ISD 709 are proposing.


The Duluth example I am most familiar with is the high school planned at Ordean Middle School , although it appears that facilities and space needs at Denfeld will be even worse.

Today’s quality high schools include:


·        6 to 8 tennis courts;   Ordean will have none.

·        1-2 baseball fields;   Ordean will have one.

·        1-2 softball fields;   Ordean may have one.

·        1 football/soccer field;   Ordean will have one.

·        1 football/soccer practice field;   Ordean will have none.

·        Running track;   Ordean will have none.

·        700-900 parking spaces for this population school;   Ordean will have only half, or 440 [assuming they build them according to the latest JCI concept plan – over and destruction of the ravine because there is no other space for parking other than destroying this absolutely unique and beautiful wooded ravine and stream]

·        600-800 linear ft. of student drop off walk and curb;   Ordean will unsafely use 40th Ave and Superior Street .

·        20-25 bus parking student drop area;   Ordean space will be fortunate to have 1/3 of this.

·        Buildings  are typically set back from collector streets 300 to 600+ feet;    Ordean will be 40 [only forty] feet away from a major street, about 2 ½ car lengths away]

·        General open space for parking/driving pedestrian safety;   Ordean will have little to none.

·        Outdoor nature or outdoor classroom areas;   Current JCI plan shows clearing and filling the one high quality natural feature on site.

·        Runoff pond collection spaces;   Ordean will have limited to no space for this.

·        Building isolation from surrounding traffic noise and vehicular fumes;   Ordean will need to keep windows closed for sound and air quality control.

·        Sites need space for expansion---often buildings & athletics expand 1/3 and more;   Ordean will have no space for this.

·        Schools have normal support needs for deliveries, storage, maintenance equipment and parking and reasonable space between all these features which are necessary for site utility, safety, appearance and flexibility;   Ordean will not fit all these needs on the 26 to 34 acres being proposed, less the 4 acres of unbuildable land.

·        Large schools have all kinds of utilitarian, storage structure, and maintenance & athletic equipment on-site storage needs.  Ordean will have to stack and squeeze these kinds of features in between parking, building and athletic fields. There is just no space on this site. 

·        Oh, by the way, the state’s recommended minimum site sizes mean 50 to 55 acres of BUILDABLE land;   Ordean has over 4 acres in completely unbuldable steep slope and ravine / stream condition, so the 26 acres is really only 22.  Compare that to the recommended 50 to 55 acres of buildable terrain this state knows by experience is required.


Minnesota Department of Education did not come up with recommended minimum site sizes of 50 to 55 acres for no reasons.  This is truly the size area needed to accomplish competitive high school needs.  And, aren’t we planning for the next 50-80 years?  What is wrong with this picture?  No doubt Mr. Dixon will claim, again, that he can fit it all on that site, but you know what—it cannot physically be done. 


If this project will not be built correctly, even after the  $51 million dollars budgeted, then it is time to accept alternatives such as looking at the overlooked site near Glenwood Street, or Plan B of Let Duluth Vote, or the Unity Plan advanced by Myles/Bowman, or something else creative enough to permit this district to provide equivalent 21st century high schools.


April 15-19, 2008     Kent G. Worley, Landscape Architect  


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