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St. Luke's plans two-story addition to Building A

The $88 million proposed plan would begin next year and would also remodel existing inpatient hospital rooms and replace the hospital parking ramp to add more parking spaces. Its estimated completion date is the end of 2024.

A rendering showing the proposed plan to add two stories to St. Luke's Building A at 1012 E. Second St. in downtown Duluth.
Contributed / St. Luke's

DULUTH — St. Luke's announced Wednesday its proposed plans to add a two-story expansion on top of its Building A. The addition would have 56 single-patient rooms and house the intensive care unit and cardiac care unit.

In addition, the health care system plans to rebuild the hospital parking ramp on East First Street to add 177 spaces and an additional floor. Because the expansion of the ICU and cardiac unit will add more inpatient rooms, the existing inpatient hospital rooms will be remodeled from double rooms to single-patient private rooms.

The total estimated cost of the project, which is Phase II of St. Luke's Health Forward Initiative, is $88 million. Michael Boeselager, vice president of support services, said the plans are still in very early stages, but construction would begin next year and finish at the end of 2024.

“We make commitments to our patients in terms of quality and cost, and we want to make sure that, moving forward, we have a flexible, adaptable space that really meets the needs of all our patients, all the time and under any conditions," Boeselager said.

The plans were unveiled at a community forum held in Building A on Wednesday evening. One attendee voiced concerns about the vertical expansion impeding the city's view of Lake Superior. Boeselager said the addition will be approximately the same height as St. Luke's hospital building at 915 E. First St.


The Building A expansion will add 28 inpatient rooms to each floor for the intensive care and cardiac care units. The estimated cost of that portion of the redevelopment is $58 million. The renovation of the existing 25 hospital rooms will cost approximately $10 million.

“We feel like we can check off all the boxes of expanding critical care capacity, having flexible or adaptable rooms, having a nice environment for our patients, repurposing the whole facility into a very modern facility, providing parking — a very centralized amenity — really at a fraction of the cost of what we see for some other organizations," Boeselager said.

Dr. Nick Van Deelen, St. Luke's co-president, co-chief executive officer and chief medical officer, said having private patient rooms helps with infection control and also improves the patient experience.

Moving the intensive care and cardiac care units to the Building A tower will consolidate much of St. Luke's emergency medicine. Building A will now house the emergency department, surgical and procedural care, intensive care, and cardiac critical care, catheterization labs, diagnostics and rehabilitation.

“There will actually be less back-and-forth with emergencies in this design than we currently have,” Van Deelen said, noting that the hospital and Building A are connected by a skywalk.

The proposed new four-story parking ramp will have 440 spaces, including electric vehicle charging stations, and will be paid for with a $14 million grant St. Luke's received from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development for infrastructure in 2019. Boeselager said during construction, about 260 of St. Luke's total 1400 parking spaces will be unusable, and plans are in development for alternative parking space and an employee shuttle.

“You have to crack some eggs to make an omelet, right, so we know that disruption will lead to a nice product in the end," Boeselager said.

An audience member at the community forum expressed concerns about road closures during construction. Boeselager said St. Luke's wants to avoid completely closing streets, but there will likely be some one-lane traffic.


University of Minnesota academic health center

During the announcement, St. Luke's also revealed a new proposed campus location for the University of Minnesota's Medical School and College of Pharmacy at the corner of Eighth Avenue East and First Street. The location, behind the Kitchi Gammi Club and Sir Ben's, would have the potential for a housing unit on top of it, if desired.

The university's academic health center was announced earlier this year and could be constructed as soon as 2025 or 2026. Essentia has proposed the lot that currently houses St. Mary's Medical Center to become the location of the academic center after St. Mary's is demolished when the Vision Northland expansion is complete. Van Deelen said the center's location will be decided by the University of Minnesota, which is currently waiting on a legislative decision regarding a $12 million bonding request.

“We think this is a great site because it’s really co-operable to both organizations," Van Deelen said of the location St. Luke's selected. "At St. Luke’s, we have concerns about the Essentia site. It’s about as far away in the medical district as you can get from us, and historically, the support of the medical school and the college of pharmacy has been jointly a 50/50 split.”

Phase I

Phase I of St. Luke's Health Forward Initiative included the construction of Building A, which opened in 2012. The five-story medical center left the first four floors open for future development, with specialty clinics on the fifth floor.

In 2015, surgical and procedural care expanded into Building A's third floor. In 2020, the emergency department moved to the second floor, and cardiac cath labs, diagnostics and rehabilitation moved to the first floor. It also included an expansion of the ambulance garage and helipad.

Phase I cost a total of $87 million.

Laura Butterbrodt covers health for the Duluth News Tribune. She has a bachelor of arts in journalism from South Dakota State University and has been working as a reporter in Minnesota and South Dakota since 2014.
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