More details about Essentia Health's plans for a new 18-story inpatient/outpatient facility in downtown Duluth have emerged, as members of the city's Planning Commission prepare to review the proposed project next week.

The design shows the building's tower standing 340 feet tall, and the structure would accommodate two throughways for vehicle traffic, where First Avenue East and the service alley above East Superior Street burrow through the facility.

The project would require some significant temporary road closures. Plans call for sections of both East First Street and Fourth Avenue East to close for about 21 months beginning in November.

The 942,500-square-foot building would stretch for two blocks down Fourth Avenue East, from East Second Street to East Superior Street. It would accommodate outpatient services, including a clinic, as well as a 312-bed inpatient facility.

Both the tower and building as a whole feature curved lines and would be faced with fritted glass, coated with a patterned ceramic to reduce the risk of bird strikes.

The tower's design and orientation is supposed to serve several purposes, according to Essentia:

• Preserving views of Lake Superior from Duluth's Hillside neighborhood;

• Minimizing wind disturbance in prevailing conditions;

• Providing patients ample views of the lake;

• Reducing solar heat gain;

• Minimizing the impact on birds migrating up the hillside from the lake.

The medical tower would sit atop a broader 4- to 9-story structure to create what the design firm EwingCole called a "podium and base form and texture" that it said was "designed to respond to the architectural and urban patterns of Duluth."

"The form of the podium and its base are derived and echoed the terracing effect of the sloped city," EwingCole said.

The design firm also claims: "Terraces and balconies provide viewpoints within the tower towards the lake as well as break down the larger mass of the building, reacting to the slope along Fourth Avenue."

Plans call for a helipad to be located on the roof of the medical tower. Essentia's current helipad is located atop the St. Mary's building about 50 to 60 feet above grade. The new helipad would be located 226 feet above Second Street.

Essentia Health and St. Luke's both have ambitious plans for their downtown campuses. In the coming several years, they are expected to invest more than $1 billion, combined in Duluth's medical district.

Duluth's health care industry is its largest sector, providing about 30 percent of local jobs.

The city is seeking state aid for public infrastructure to support the growth of its two biggest medical care providers. Initially, the city had requested $164 million in state funding, but Sen. Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, said that request has been reduced to less than $100 million.

He said Duluth remains in the running for that funding, assuming the Legislature reconvenes for a special session in the coming weeks, as expected.

For more information on medical district plans, visit the community planning department tab at

If you go

What: Public meeting to discuss medical district plans

Where: Room 303 Duluth City Hall, 411 W. First St.

When: 6 p.m. Thursday