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Trinity Hotel Investors Begin Makeover of
Duluth Radisson Hotel Starting at the Top

By Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune, Minn.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Apr. 15, 2010--A major makeover of the Duluth Radisson Hotel is under way, and it's starting at the top.

The Top of the Harbor restaurant, on the hotel's 15th floor, has been completely gutted since closing March 22.

When it reopens about Memorial Day, it will have a sit-down granite bar where patrons can take in the view as the restaurant rotates every 72 minutes. With warm, dark tones, it will have a North Shore feel, with a focus on Lake Superior and shipping, complete with artifacts and old photographs. A new menu will feature sustainable fish and vegetables, with prices a bit higher than in the past.

That will be just the beginning.

The hotel's Fifth Avenue Lounge on the Superior Street level will be next. Early this summer, it will get a club-like look, with overstuffed leather chairs and a sports theme that pays homage to Minnesota and Duluth sports of the past, says Paul Leisner, the hotel's general manager.

"Like everybody else, you need to keep improving your product," he explained.

The investment comes as a push is under way to renovate and rebrand Radisson hotels across the country, making them more competitive with a more contemporary, stylish flair.

Leisner said that's just part of the reason for the 40-year-old Duluth Radisson's remodel.

"It's being done in tandem with that," he said. "They're part of the process but not the reason. This was in the works before."

Later this year, the hotel's lobby will be updated to give it a more welcoming and comfortable feel, although a specific design hasn't been chosen yet.

"It's functional at this point, but we want to give it more style," Leisner said.

In time, the guest rooms will be remodeled and the pool area probably will be upgraded. During construction, the hotel will remain open.

"We've got a lot of positive things happening," Leisner said. "We're very, very excited."

Leisner wasn't allowed to say how much the makeover will cost the hotel's owner, Trinity Hotel Investors, based in New York City. But he said, "It's significant."

Elsewhere downtown, Holiday Inn & Suites underwent $1 million in upgrades, including a massive new sign, in recent years. The Sheraton Duluth was built in the eastern end of downtown and Canal Park Lodge was re-built.

"To say they didn't have an impact wouldn't be truthful," Leisner said. "We always need to be competitive, but we have to stay focused on the needs of our customers."

Kristi Stokes, president of the Greater Downtown Council, said the Radisson's investment is good news.

"We are thrilled," she said. "There will be substantial changes, and this will bring a positive boost to the western end of our downtown."

Ken Buehler, executive director of the Historic Union Depot Corp., sees the Radisson's investment as the first of about $180 million in private capital investment expected to occur around the planned Northern Lights Express rail station at the Depot, just one block from the Radisson.

"I think the Radisson is going to be the first of many," he said of that end of downtown. "They've broken the ice, and I think others will soon follow. The Radisson is seeing the future and acting on it right now."


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