Essentia Health plans to open an ambulatory surgical center in the former Sears building at Duluth's Miller Hill Mall.

The medical center will be discussed in a public hearing at the Duluth Planning Commission meeting Tuesday.

According to the proposal submitted to the planning commission, construction would begin this spring to renovate 40% of the building’s interior, plus reconfiguration of the parking lot. The 32,080-square-foot outpatient surgery center, anticipated to open in spring 2022, will include a laboratory and pharmacy.

“The new day surgery center will service the growing demand by patients who want to use outpatient services and recover at home,” Dan Cebelinski, director of facilities at Essentia Health, wrote in a letter to the commission. “The new facility also reflects the growing number of surgeries and other procedures that can be done safely without hospitalization.”

Almost 80 existing parking stalls will be removed and converted into landscape features, but according to the proposal, the remaining parking spaces will be “more than sufficient.” There are also plans to add sidewalks for pedestrians.

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The former Sears Auto Center will be designated as a patient discharge area with an enclosed and conditioned space and one-way drive to create easy access for patients who have just had a procedure to get to vehicles.

“The new facility reflects the increasing number of surgeries and other procedures that can be done safely without hospitalization,” said Louie St. George, Essentia media relations specialist. “It will allow patients to easily access high-quality and safe care while giving them the convenience they seek — easy access and free parking, for example.”

St. George said plans for the rest of the building are in development.

Essentia Health purchased the former Sears building in February 2020 and has been using the space for COVID-19 testing since July. The site will continue to be used for testing, St. George said. The building is large enough to accommodate both, and the renovation is not happening in the area where testing is conducted.

The Essentia Health-Miller Hill Health Plaza at 1600 Miller Trunk Highway also houses the Center for Personal Fitness, Therapy and Performance Center and Polinksy Medical Rehabilitation Center in the former Younkers space. The health system also will begin administering COVID-19 vaccines by appointment in the former Dress Barn space Friday.