Published on March 17, 2020

Plans for new parking ramp, housing donation announced

Plans are underway for a new parking ramp in downtown Duluth, thanks to a development agreement between Essentia Health and the City of Duluth. The tentative agreement needs the approval of the Duluth City Council.

The city parking ramp will be built at the corner of East First Street and Fourth Avenue East. The site is across from the city’s current Medical District Ramp and the new Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center that’s under construction.

The new ramp will provide parking for Essentia Health’s patients, visitors and staff as well as for people visiting nearby businesses and entertainment venues in the city’s Historic Arts and Theater District. A skywalk will connect the parking ramp to Essentia’s new hospital and clinic space.

Essentia Health and the city also have agreed to work together to replace affordable housing that will be removed for the ramp project.

Essentia Health will commit up to $1.425 million to One Roof Community Housing for its Brewery Creek Apartments. The project will bring 52 affordable apartments to Duluth’s Central Hillside neighborhood.

Essentia’s donation nearly triples the private investment in the housing project estimated to cost $18.5 million, says Jeff Corey, executive director of One Roof Community Housing.

“One Roof is delighted and grateful for Essentia Health’s donation, which will help push this project to the finish line,” Corey says. “This boosts our local investment and shows we have the participation of our community — and a major local employer — behind us.”

“We know housing is a significant need in Duluth,” says Dr. David C. Herman, Essentia’s chief executive officer. “We also understand that housing is critical to people’s health and important to our aim of achieving health and vitality in our communities.”

“The City of Duluth thanks Essentia for providing resources to find homes for those who would be displaced by this development,” says Mayor Emily Larson. “With this level of historic investments in affordable housing, Essentia Health is leading with values of ensuring that what’s good for their medical community is also good for the Duluth community.”

Over the past two decades, Essentia Health has made monetary contributions of more than $16 million to nonprofit and charitable organizations across the Northland. More than $2 million went to address direct housing issues.

“Essentia Health values our relationship with the City of Duluth and our neighborhood,” says Dr. Herman. “The new city parking ramp is another example of how Essentia Health and the city are working as partners to improve the Central Hillside neighborhood and boost economic development in downtown Duluth.”

“The parking ramp will serve Essentia Health’s patients, visitors and staff by providing convenient parking with easy access to our new hospital and clinics,” says Dr. Jon Pryor, president of Essentia Health’s East Market. “It will also help relieve parking problems and traffic congestion in our neighborhood.”

The development agreement will go before the Duluth City Council on Monday, March 23. If approved, design and construction plans will begin. Construction is expected to take around 24 months.

The new parking ramp will be financed by money appropriated last May by the Minnesota Legislature in a bill that created the Regional Exchange District (the new Duluth medical district). The bill set aside $97.7 million for public infrastructure improvements, including $36.4 million for the ramp. The City of Duluth already has approved some of the money to improve parking, roads, sewers and utilities in the district.

Under the proposed development agreement, Essentia Health will design and build the ramp in close collaboration with the city. Once completed, the ramp and its operations will be turned over to the City of Duluth.

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