Published on September 14, 2020

Essentia Health celebrates one year of Vision Northland construction

shot of large building structure being constructed

One year after work started to build a new St. Mary’s Medical Center and accompanying clinic space on Essentia Health’s downtown Duluth campus, the construction site tells a story of considerable progress.

Since Sept. 9, 2019, when demolition got underway, more than 41,000 cubic yards of rock has been removed; 17,500 cubic yards of concrete has been poured; and 2,300 tons of steel has been erected. More than 750 workers have been on site over the past year building the $900 million project that is expected to be complete in the first quarter of 2023. The new hospital is scheduled to open for patient care in the third quarter of 2023.

All told, it will include about 942,000 square feet of new construction.

McGough Construction is the construction manager.

Next to all the big numbers associated with Essentia’s expansion — called Vision Northland — a couple of really small numbers stand out. Over the past year, there has been only one minor “recordable” injury, plus four “first-aid” injuries. That’s despite crews having logged 210,000 hours. The first-year safety record was recognized by the Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“Essentia Health and the Vision Northland planning team would like to extend our thanks to the skilled men and women of the trades to help make our vision a reality,” said Dr. Robert Erickson, Essentia’s physician lead for Vision Northland.

More than 50 percent of the tradespeople working on Vision Northland are members of local unions. Nine subcontractors are headquartered in Duluth and four in Superior.

As folks drive by the construction site, especially along Superior Street, they may marvel at the clinic tower that’s progressing skyward. But that tower will “only” be eight stories tall. The big tower will rise 15 stories above First Street and 12 stories above Second Street. Upon completion, it will be the tallest building in Duluth and will transform the city’s downtown skyline.

According to Phil Johnson, project manager for McGough, crews are building the equivalent of 26,000 square feet per month.

“McGough is thrilled to be working on such a historic and momentous project,” Johnson said. “While McGough has been diligently planning and executing this project for more than two years, none of this would have been possible without the numerous local and regional trade partners that have excelled throughout the process. We are very fortunate to work with such a great team that stresses both safety and quality.”

As construction continues beneath three massive tower cranes on site, the largest private investment in Duluth’s history moves closer to becoming a reality. Vision Northland will enhance Essentia’s ability to deliver high-quality patient care and it will bring our facilities and technology in line with how medicine is practiced in the 21st century.

“On this one-year anniversary of construction, with the first scoop of soil and every subsequent beam raised, Essentia Health envisions our future facility enhancing patient care, along with improving the health care experience of patients and staff,” Dr. Erickson said.

To coordinate interviews, photos, and/or video, contact the media relations team.