Case Study: City of Duluth, Imagine Canal Park

Challenge: Create a plan to re-envision Duluth’s popular Canal Park district.

Role:  Northspan’s President Elissa Hansen along with City of Duluth staff led the Imagine Canal Park project. Elissa served as the grant writer and project coordinator, but was guided by everyone who lives, works, plays, visits, or travels through the Canal Park neighborhood. A fall 2017 inclusive community engagement process included stakeholder workshops, online surveys, a walkshop, public life surveys, and a series of public Imagine Stations. The thousands of stakeholder ideas were then categorized into two priority areas and nine recommendations for pilot projects, several of which were implemented and then evaluated. The team collected extensive user data and feedback for each pilot installation and examined which changes worked well, which didn’t, and why they did or did not.  During this process Elissa traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark and Miami, Florida for intensive trainings on methods to increase community engagement, including what it means to focus on public life and how to gather relevant information.

Results: The results of this evaluation process informed the recommendations for the final Imagine Canal Park report. This final report will help shape the future growth and development of Canal Park and set out a clear plan of action to ensure that residents’ collective vision for this area is realized.

Reference: Mayor Emily Larson,, 218.730.5320

Contact Elissa Hansen at for more information.