Published on September 25, 2019

GROUND IS BROKEN: Essentia Health, community leaders celebrate start of Vision Northland

people with shovels at a groundbreaking

After years of planning, ground was broken this afternoon on Essentia Health’s Vision Northland project. The $800 million undertaking will align Essentia’s facilities and technology with 21st-century medicine and allow us to continue providing the highest-quality care to our patients. The replacement hospital bed tower is expected to open in the fall of 2022.

Leaders from Essentia and our construction partner, McGough Construction Co., as well as others from the community and across the state, converged on our downtown campus earlier today. They were joined on East Second Street — between Fourth and Fifth Avenues East, where the new hospital eventually will stand — by Essentia employees for a program that lasted approximately one hour.

Speakers included David Herman, MD, CEO of Essentia; Dr. Robert Erickson, Essentia’s physician leader for Vision Northland; Duluth Mayor Emily Larson; State Senator Erik Simonson; State Representatives Jennifer Schultz, Mary Murphy and Greg Davids; and Craig Olson, President of the Duluth Building and Construction Trades Council.

Additionally, Sister Beverly Raway, Prioress for the Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery, offered a prayer and blessing, leading to a joyful moment in which her holy water from Our Lady Queen of Peace Chapel dampened members of the audience.

With temperatures in the mid-60s and a steady wind blowing, about 25 honored guests thrust their gold shovels into the ground, celebrating the official start of what will become the largest private investment in Duluth’s history.

As Dr. Herman noted, Vision Northland represents promise for the future. It highlights Essentia’s commitment to our patients, allowing us to meet their ever-changing needs in a state-of-the-art facility and with cutting-edge technology. Similarly, the project will create an environment that assists our goal of recruiting and retaining top talent.

In short, it will promote continued adherence to our mission of making a healthy difference in people’s lives.

“For this project is about much more than a building,” Dr. Herman told the crowd. “It’s a promise and a platform to provide the highest level of care, long into the future. It’s a catalyst for additional economic growth in our region.”

Mayor Larson thanked Essentia “for your commitment to this community.” “This is such an exciting moment for the City of Duluth,” the mayor said, adding: “We are going to break ground and then we are going to move forward together with this big, bold vision.”

The beautiful new hospital, rising 12 stories over Second Street and with its sweeping views of Lake Superior, will feature single-patient rooms, which have been shown to reduce the risk of infection during hospitalization, and larger operating spaces that will accommodate modern medical equipment.

“It signifies a transformation of the care we provide,” Dr. Erickson said. “From the perspective of a caregiver like me, Vision Northland will allow us to practice in a facility that has been designed with our patients and their families in mind. It will allow us to be more efficient, more effective and more collaborative. It will allow us to provide the latest treatments.”

Today’s program also included a $10,000 donation from Essentia to Myers-Wilkins Elementary School, which will go toward the promotion of healthy lifestyles among the school’s students.

Vision Northland, designed by architectural firm EwingCole, will include 928,000 square feet of new construction.


  • “Today is a big day. Not only for Essentia but for the people of Minnesota. This session, the Minnesota Senate, House of Representatives, and Governor worked together to expand high-quality medical care in this region with the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer. With $1 billion of private investment money, Essentia has set the new standard on how to conduct public-private partnerships surrounding large-scale projects and I commend them for their leadership in this work. It is my hope that this will be a model project to pioneer and innovate how we deliver vital medical services to Minnesotans. Thank you for celebrating this monumental occasion today!” — Minnesota State Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka
  • “I thought, ‘That’s exciting. That’s something we’ve not seen in my lifetime and probably won’t see again.’ ” — Simonson, recalling the first time he was approached about Vision Northland
  • “As an economist, I know how important this project is to economic development.” — Schultz
  • “They were helped by the men who came along — and followed their direction — but they were still the force.” — Murphy, on the impact the Sisters of St. Benedict had in the development of northern Minnesota
  • “There are no Republicans here. There are no Democrats. There are people coming together to get a job done.” — Davids

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