What are you planning to build in downtown Duluth?

Essentia Health plans to build a replacement hospital bed tower along with surgical suites and clinic space. We’ll also renovate some existing buildings.

Where will this medical complex go?

The new facility will be located at the corner of Fourth Avenue East and East Second Street. A parking garage now sits at the corner. The new complex, including the clinic, will extend along Fourth Avenue East, over East First Street and end on Superior Street. The replacement hospital bed tower’s main entrance will be on East Second Street.

How big will the new medical complex be?

Architects and planners are still working on the final designs but estimates put the square footage at 815,000. The replacement hospital bed tower will be 14 stories tall and the clinic eight stories.

How much will this cost?

Essentia Health will invest $675 million in construction and another $125 million in related infrastructure and financing.

How long will construction take?

We plan to begin construction in 2019 and complete it in 2022.

What will happen to St. Mary’s Medical Center?

We will continue to care for patients at St. Mary’s Medical Center until 2022, when the replacement hospital bed tower opens. No decisions have been made on what will happen to the building once it is vacated. The property is owned by the Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery. In July, we started a discernment process with the Sisters to make decisions.

Why do you need a new medical complex?

Medicine has changed since St. Mary’s was founded in 1888 and the current building has undergone many expansions and renovations to try to keep pace. Now we need a facility that can match how medicine is practiced in the 21st century, particularly when it comes to accommodating new technologies. We also have to figure out ways to be more effective and efficient in the way we deliver care as we do our part to hold down the cost of health care. We also want to enhance the experience for patients, their families, our visitors and our staff.

Parking can be a challenge around the medical campus. Will that improve?

We recognize that parking can be a challenge for patients and our employees. We’re developing plans for additional parking.

What’s going to happen to the Center for Personal Fitness?

The Fitness & Therapy Center will move to the first floor of the former Younkers store at Miller Hill Mall this fall.

Why was this location selected for the construction project?

Many factors were considered in selecting the site. The location along Fourth Avenue East from Superior Street to East Second Street was largely chosen because of the ability to integrate our existing facilities but there were many other considerations taken into account in site selection as well.

The design of this building has a lot of glass and Duluth is a major migratory route for birds. What are you doing to prevent birds from flying into the glass?

We have heard from birders and others in the community who are concerned about birds. We brought that to our architects and asked them to mitigate the hazard. They’ve designed the glass with fritting, which makes the glass look clear when humans look out but look like a wall to birds.

Will Vision Northland mean fewer jobs or lost jobs at Essentia Health?

We’re continually looking for efficiencies in performing care for our patients. However, we anticipate that we will need to make sure we have enough people to staff this facility due a large number of anticipated retirements. We expect to need to recruit future staff to provide patient care and ancillary services. We also expect demand for our services to increase and the number of patients to increase.

Will you seek LEED certification?

The new facility will be built to LEED standards. We’re not certain at this time whether we’ll apply for a certain level of certification. We also expect the new facility to provide a significant savings in energy costs and decrease our carbon footprint.

Will you provide family restrooms in the replacement hospital bed tower?

We do plan to have family restrooms in our new facility. Our restrooms will meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Will there be Lakewalk access from the new facility?

Patient, pedestrian and vehicle traffic have all been considered, not only with our own facility but within the community, in planning for the Vision Northland project. There are discussions for Lakewalk access from the area, if not specifically from the Essentia Health facility.

Who is your architect?

We have chosen EwingCole, a national firm with extensive health care experience.

Who is the project’s construction manager?

McGough Construction has been chosen as the construction manager. The family-run construction firm is headquartered in Minneapolis-St. Paul, with branch offices in Duluth, St. Cloud, Rochester, Fargo, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Dallas-Fort Worth. The company recently completed the Essentia Health/North Pine Area Hospital District’s Pine Medical Center in Sandstone and is currently construction manager for the Essentia Wellness Center in Hermantown.