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St. Mary's Medical Center to be demolished when Vision Northland is complete

Essentia Health and the Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery said that the building, which is 100 years old in some parts, is too expensive to renovate or repurpose.

Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center
Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center on East Third Street in Duluth.
Clint Austin / 2010 file / Duluth News Tribune
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Essentia Health's St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth will be demolished when Essentia's Vision Northland expansion is complete, the health care system announced Tuesday morning.

The St. Mary's building at 407 E. Third St. will remain open to care for patients until Vision Northland is fully operational in 2023.

According to a news release from Essentia, the Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery and Essentia made the decision to demolish the original building because of prohibitively high operating and maintenance costs for heating, cooling, electrical and plumbing systems. Essentia stated that because of those costs, renovating or repurposing the building is not viable. The oldest part of St. Mary's was completed in 1922-23.

“The decision to demolish the aging hospital was not easy, especially when considering the important role the building has played in the history of Duluth, the Northland and the communities we serve,” David Herman, chief executive officer of Essentia Health, said in the release.

Essentia and the Benedictine Sisters have been in a discernment process over the future of the building for three years because the Benedictine Sisters own the land, but Essentia owns the building. When hospital operations move to Vision Northland, which is expected in the third quarter of 2023, the Sisters will own the building and property. The Vision Northland hospital tower will be the new St. Mary's Medical Center.

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“The Benedictine Sisters began caring for our community on this site in 1898, so the hospital has served generations of families and their neighbors,” Sister Beverly Raway, Prioress of the St. Scholastica Monastery, said in the news release. “Essentia is now building a new hospital to serve generations to come. The legacy of caring and the mission of the Benedictine Sisters will continue in the new St. Mary’s Medical Center.”

The discernment committee and SEH Inc. consulting are developing a facilities master plan for Essentia’s downtown medical campus and nearby properties owned by the Benedictine Sisters and Essentia. While no plans have been announced for the property when the hospital is gone, Essentia stated that future use of the property "will honor its past, its history and the missions of the Sisters and Essentia."

Essentia Health has owned the current St. Mary's building since 2004, when the health care network formed. Before that, St. Mary’s Medical Center and its affiliates merged with the Duluth Clinic system in 1997 to form St. Mary’s-Duluth Clinic health system, which later became Essentia Health.

Laura Butterbrodt covers health and business 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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