St. Luke’s aims to double size of Mount Royal Medical Clinic in DuluthSt. Luke’s wants to double the size of its Mount Royal Medical Clinic as plans move forward for a large mixed-use development at the Woodland Middle School site next door.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
St. Luke’s wants to double the size of its Mount Royal Medical Clinic as plans move forward for a large mixed-use development at the Woodland Middle School site next door.
The Duluth neighborhood clinic, which has been part of the St. Luke’s system since 1996, is 8,200 square feet.
St. Luke’s wants to expand it to 17,000 square feet, according to city documents.
The clinic, at 1400 Woodland Ave. in Duluth, is set back from the road at Elizabeth Street, with the planned expansion into a wooded area between the building and the avenue.
“Anyone looking at investment will think there’s a lot of potential here, and Mark Lambert’s project is a big part of it,” said Duluth Planning Commission President Drew Digby, referring to the Woodland site developer. “It’s a good time to invest. I’m sure it’s part of St. Luke’s thinking.”
St. Luke’s officials, however, aren’t talking, though the project has been devoid of controversy.
Ron Franzen, St. Luke’s vice president of support services, declined to be interviewed. And clinic managers did not return calls from the News Tribune.
Before expansion plans can proceed, the property’s zoning needs to be changed from residential urban (R-2) to mixed use-neighborhood (MU-N). That’s because the current R-2 zoning limits the building to 10,000 square feet, while MU-N would allow for a clinic up to 20,000 square feet.
“Right now we’re exploring options at Mount Royal,” said Mary Greene, a St. Luke’s spokeswoman. “So there’s really not much to tell quite yet. We don’t own the building, we lease it. The prep work is to see if the next expansion is even doable.”
More definite plans are revealed, however, in the city’s staff report on St. Luke’s rezoning request filed in late November. It reveals the pending purchase of the clinic by St. Luke’s. After leasing the property for 16 years, St. Luke’s is in the process of buying it. The deal should be completed Feb. 29, the report says.
Requesting a zoning change usually is made by applicants who mean business, Digby said.
“There’s a chance they would request it to see if it was possible,” he said. “In this case, they have a specific plan that they want to do.”
The request by St. Luke’s for the zoning change probably will go before the Duluth City Council for a vote Feb. 13. City staff members are supportive. And in a unanimous vote last month, the Duluth Planning Commission recommended its approval after only one neighbor spoke out against it, saying the Woodland Avenue-Elizabeth Street intersection already is very busy.
In citing reasons for the request, the city report says the current clinic’s layout and space isn’t efficient, and they need space for a few more doctors and to expand services for patients.
It also mentions the Woodland Middle School project. It argues for the zoning change because of the upcoming development of the Woodland school site and because the Mount Royal clinic needs to grow.
“Specifically we are requesting the Mt. Royal Clinic property be classified MU-N to allow for its growth now,” the report says.
Construction on the Woodland school site project is scheduled to start this summer with the targeted opening in 2013 or 2014.
Lambert, its developer, said he’s “very supportive” of the plans by St. Luke’s to expand the clinic.
“They’re good neighbors,” he said. “What they’re doing has a value, not only to the neighborhood, but citywide. We think it’s a great use, and they do a good job with their buildings.”
When asked whether the clinic’s expansion will benefit his project, Lambert said: “There’s possibly some synergy there. I think we complement each other.”
The 22-acre Woodland school site and an eastern portion of the clinic property already have been changed to the mixed use-neighborhood zoning St. Luke’s is seeking. That change was made in 2010 to set the stage for the kind of retail and off-campus housing hub Lambert plans to create.