HIBBING — It’s hard to tell from the bottom of the Susquehanna if there’s been much — if any – action on top of the massive stockpile. And given the big lock on the gate, it’s not accessible.
But rest assured, there has been movement up and down that long, windy road to the top. Phase I of the new Hull Rust Mine View has been completed.
“It’s every bit as exciting as I thought it would be,” said Pete Hyduke, the city’s director of City Services and co-project manager, when asked what it’s like to see the mine view come to life.
“It’s a magnificent addition to our city and to tourism,” he continued. “As it moves forward and as anyone who’s been up there will tell you, it’s a beautiful sight. It can be overwhelming when walking it and seeing the 360 degree views.”
Hibbing native Andrew Lucia provided the concept studies for the new Mine View and surrounding site. He studied and considered possible expanded uses of the site for future development under a pro bono agreement with the City of Hibbing. In early 2017, he shared his “windows to the world” vision with city council.
“The intent is to go beyond a mere look-out and truly engage the landscape as a lens on itself, while taking into consideration the many diverse factors and interests involved in this project,” Lucia explained.
The design concept was influenced by many complex and unique circumstances that have shaped the community and region — geology, the generations and diverse heritages of people from around the world who came to this region, mining and the incredible 360 degree views to the Hull Rust Mine, the City of Hibbing and the region.
“The design intent is to intervene as minimally as possible while leveraging the grounds of the site and its context to maximum effect,” said Lucia.
In mid-July 2017, the city forged an agreement with Lucia for Phase 1 design. At that time he went by Andrew Lucia Design and Research, LLC, but has since partnered with Iroha Ito to form architecture and design studio Lucito.
Phase I work began with construction of the main access road by Cliffs Natural Resources and Hoover Construction and development of the overall upper park by the city.
“The park includes 3 primary lookout windows, and the moving and relocation of the artifacts from the old site to the new one,” noted Lucia. “The observation windows look out to the mine, the City of Hibbing and one along the major Mesabi Axis.”
The earthwork and artifact relocation proved to be a feat, especially moving the old Komatsu Haulpak 170C mining truck on the beds of two Bougalis and Sons Co. semi-trucks. Komatsu Mining Corp. and Kirscher Transport also assisted in artifact placement.
Then came the precast concrete landscape elements, frames and lookout windows by Forterra. That’s in addition to creating walking path, putting in signage and installation of security fencing.
Seeing his vision become reality is pretty incredible, said Lucia.
“To see it develop and then completed is a bit of a dream come true. There are many moments that were anticipated and others that were even beyond what we had envisioned,” he expounded. “The sheer scale of the surrounding land and changing of the weather and seasons makes the park an evolving experience. And so each time we've visited there's been these wonderful moments of surprise between your perception from within the park and the framing of the land and sky.”
The upper park is very true to his initial vision.
“It was wonderful to work with a supportive team, especially Pete Hyduke from the City of Hibbing and the civil engineering team led by Matt Bolf from SEH (Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc.),” said Lucia. “We had a team that saw the vision and wanted to make this park a special place — and so it happened. We really can't thank them enough.”
Hyduke agreed that all parties involved had made this a nice project to work on.
“All have done a good job of basically taking Andrew’s design, implementing it and really doing a nice job with the finished product,” he said.
All told the cost for Phase I is around $600,000 including some IRRRB grants funds, in-kind services and donations, Hyduke estimated.
Efforts are now focused on developing and securing funding for Phase II of the project, which is a pair of buildings perched over the edge of the stockpile that will comprise the visitors' center. Installing footings and foundations will be the first move. Hyduke said that foundation may serve as a temporary foundation for the former visitors’ center until a permanent structure can be built.
“In a perfect world, if all goes right, we would anticipate having some type of opening in the late spring,” Hyduke offered. “That’s if we can get the footings and foundation in the early part of the year and get a building up there to full open.”
He acknowledged that residents, visitors and the Tourist Seniors are all anxious to take in the new mine view.
“We know it’s highly anticipated and that people are anxious and excited to see it,” said Hyduke.
The Hibbing Tourist Center Seniors will certainly be part of the new mine view. For years the seniors have manned the visitors center, which traditionally tallied about 25,000 persons annually.
In fact, the seniors have been along for parts of this ride too.
“We've had a wonderful working relationship with the folks at the Hibbing Tourist Center, who are offering invaluable expertise to the project,” said Lucia. “We are taking what was the program of old mine view and expanding the role and function.”
The new main building will have a dedicated reception space to great visitors and a gift shop. He said they are also working with the Hibbing Historical Society to introduce a rotating exhibition space there as well.
“Because of the vantages of the new site, the City of Hibbing and the Mesabi region are as much a part of the experience as is the mine, and so we've pushed to have those aspects included in the future program,” Lucia explained. “Additionally, there will be a separate smaller building situated adjacent to the main building that will be devoted to maps, geology and the broader legacy of the land.”
Lucia will be presenting on the mine view “makeover” during a Hibbing Area Chamber of Commerce breakfast gathering at 7 a.m. Nov. 13 at the Hibbing Tourist Center, 1202 E. Howard St. For more info or to RSVP, email the chamber at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With Phase I of the park complete, Lucia is just as anxious to share it as people are looking forward to visiting. But he asks that everyone be patient.
“It's a slow process, but well worth it so that things turn out right,” he said. “A lot of the wait is due to seeking out grant funding for the project, which is actively happening.”
He looks forward to moving forward, and providing the Tourist Seniors with a new home at the new mine view.
“In the interim, please be sure to visit the Hibbing Tourist Center at their downtown location and show them your support,” urged Lucia. “Without their dedication and what they bring to the project in terms of legacy and knowledge, the mine view isn't complete.”