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St. Luke's ready to go vertical with downtown Duluth medical campus

A planning commission approval has cleared the way for a $58 million investment.

St. Luke's extension screenshot.JPG
An architectural rendering of an expanded St. Luke's Building A on Second Street in Duluth. The expansion, which received Duluth Planning Commission approval this week and is targeted for completion at the end of 2024, would include three floors, two of cardiac and intensive care space, built on top of the existing structure.
Submitted photo
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DULUTH — St. Luke’s expansion plans moved one step closer to reality this week, when the Duluth Planning Commission unanimously signed off on a project that will add three floors to the health care provider’s existing five-story Building A.

The project represents about a $58 million investment, and cranes could start moving steel in March, said St. Luke’s Vice President of Support Services Micheal Boeselager. The target date for completion is December 2024.

He said the expansion was outlined in the second phase of St. Luke’s Health Forward Initiative to better serve patients in the future. Phase 1 involved the construction of Building A at 1012 E. Second St., a facility that opened in 2012. The building currently houses emergency care, surgery, specialty care, cardiac catheterization labs, diagnostics and a rehab gym.

One floor of the heightened building will accommodate mechanical systems, and the top two stories will be dedicated to intensive care and cardiac units. The project will add 56 hospital beds to the facility. But Boeselager said there will be no net gain in St. Luke’s overall inpatient capacity, as those beds will replace ones currently located at St. Luke’s hospital next door. The expansion will, however, enable St. Luke’s to offer its patients a greater degree of privacy, with no need to share rooms any longer.

“With that additional capacity, it allows us to go back to the hospital and remodel all the existing space to create private rooms,” Boeselager explained. “So, it’s a good way to repurpose facilities and achieve additional critical care space, private rooms to enhance the patient experience and expand regional capacity.”

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He described St. Luke’s incremental growth strategy as an intentional approach to improving service while controlling costs.

“We build what we need when we need it, without overbuilding. So, when we feel there’s a need for additional technologies, outpatient services, critical care capacity or anything in that regard, we really consider what is the right time to pull those triggers and execute the different phases of our growth,” Boeselager said.

No street closures are anticipated in conjunction with the project, although there may be some traffic constrictions during periods of construction.

“We’re going to try to mitigate that the best we can and keep that to a minimum,” Boeselager said.

After the project, St. Luke’s Building A is expected to stand 114 feet high.

Neil Bright, an architect for the Erdman firm, said the structure is designed so it could accommodate up to an additional three floors, climbing to a maximum of 11 stories. But Boeselager said the next phase of expanding St. Luke’s medical campus in downtown Duluth after this coming project is likely to be horizontal, rather than vertical in nature.

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Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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