Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Essentia's new hospital 98% complete, on track to open this summer

The remaining work on the largest private investment in Duluth's history includes completion of construction details, installation of equipment and furniture, and staff training.

Construction site at Essentia Health's new St. Mary's Hospital
The construction site around the new St. Mary's Hospital, which is nearing completion, pictured Friday.
Laura Butterbrodt / Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — Essentia patients can expect to receive care in its new hospital this summer. According to Essentia Health and McGough Construction representatives, the Vision Northland project is now about 98% complete.

The hospital, which will be the new St. Mary's Medical Center, is the largest private investment in Duluth's history at $900 million. It's on track to serve its first patients during Essentia's third quarter, sometime between July and September.

The new Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center is anticipated to begin training staff in February. The $900 million, 942,000-square-foot project is still on time and on budget, Essentia CEO David Herman said.

"To bring this project in on time and on budget is a great feat, especially through a pandemic," said Dan Cebelinski, Essentia’s director of facilities. "We've reached substantial completion on the project, which doesn't mean the contractors are 100% done yet, but we're very close. We're getting everything wrapped up."

Large columns and art pieces in the Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center atrium
The atrium, which will be the main patient lobby and waiting area, at the new Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth. Adding furniture is among the next steps in completing the hospital.
Laura Butterbrodt / Duluth News Tribune

Crews are working to complete the "punch list" items for construction, like minor cosmetic touch-ups and infrastructure details. Then medical equipment and supplies, furniture and decor will be installed.


Dr. Robert Erickson, physician lead for Vision Northland, said about two-thirds of the artwork the hospital has incorporated comes from local artists in the health care system's service area, with special attention to incorporating Indigenous art and photography.

During a news conference on the hospital's main entrance floor off East Second Street, members of the media were shown the registration and atrium lobby, the chapel, a coffee shop and the dining hall with a view of the Aerial Lift Bridge and downtown Duluth.

Two construction workers kneel on a ledge overlooking Duluth's Aerial Lift Bridge and Canal Park
Construction workers install glass railings to the balcony off the new St. Mary's Medical Center dining hall Friday.
Laura Butterbrodt / Duluth News Tribune

Essentia Health and the sisters at the St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth are working together to determine the timeline for the demolition of the old St. Mary's Medical Center. The sisters commissioned and donated a stained-glass window for the chapel in the new hospital. The pews were taken and reused from the previous chapel.

Two men stand to the right of a colorful stained-glass window of two people embracing
Dan Cebelinski, left, and Robert Erickson view the stained-glass window in the new St. Mary's Medical Center chapel Friday. The window was commissioned and donated by the sisters of the St. Scholastica Monastery.
Laura Butterbrodt / Duluth News Tribune

Jeff Dzurik, McGough Construction executive vice president of project management, said much of the construction work left is exterior finishing, including installing canopies and glass railings to balconies. Sections of tile, which were imported from Spain, can't be installed until the temperature reaches 40 degrees or warmer.

The health system will no longer limit the number of visitors allowed in most inpatient units, and will accept visitors at all hours.
Superior's Project SEARCH interns found a new home at Essentia Health.
An attorney faulted the health system for a breakdown in communication that led to an 8-day-old baby's permanent disability.
Crews are putting the final touches on the $900 million project.
The program will teach representatives from Minnesota health systems about how social determinants of health caused by housing inequity can be addressed.
Other Essentia facilities inside the Duluth mall have already reopened since the roof collapse March 14.

The 17th and 18th floors, which were designated as intensive care unit-adaptable floors amid the hospital bed shortage at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, are the final floors to be finished. The floors were redesigned mid-project to have increased air exchanges and larger ducts for infection control.

"Hospitals were calling all over the place trying to find beds, so they will have the ability, in an emergency situation, to have up to six floors of hospital beds," Dzurik said.

Erickson said Essentia staff will have time to train in on the new floors before they transition patients.


"We have the luxury of the four months to be able to get used to working on the floor, other simulations like when a helicopter lands on the top floor and the patient goes down to the (emergency department)," Erickson said. "We'll be simulating patients coming through the ED, so we have a lot of work over the next four months, but this is really kind of the exciting part."

Three men in suits and ties and disposable booties stand in a line in front of a microphone
From left, Dan Cebelinski, Essentia’s director of facilities; Robert Erickson, project physician lead; and Jeff Dzurik, McGough Construction executive vice president of project management, speak to the media in the new Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center chapel Friday.
Laura Butterbrodt / Duluth News Tribune

Erickson said the proximity and skywalk connection to the "legacy" St. Mary's Medical Center will make moving patients much easier. The move will be a two-week process of moving usable equipment from the old St. Mary's to the new. Patients and providers will transfer to the new building together in phases over that two-week period.

As construction nears its end, Dzurik said some road barriers around the project will be removed at the end of March. Fourth Avenue East is expected to reopen, and the lanes on East Superior and Second streets will reopen. He said drivers should still expect heavier truck traffic in the area as the hospital receives equipment deliveries. East First Street will remain closed until the end of June because of the truck traffic and unloading.

A wide-shot view of the Essentia Health cafeteria, with several large, empty white counters
The Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center cafeteria.
Laura Butterbrodt / Duluth News Tribune

Dzurik noted the site has an outstanding safety record, with more than 2.8 million work hours logged and no major injuries or accidents.

"I don't know that words can express how proud I am of all the hard work that's been done," Dzurik said. "Hospitals are amongst the hardest types of buildings to build. You look around these spaces and what you're seeing is the finishes on the walls. Most of the complexity you never see as the public. Most of that's happening in mechanical rooms and all the hundreds of systems that go into these buildings to make them safe for patients, for families, for staff."

Empty pews face a cross at the altar of a small chapel
The chapel at the new Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center.
Laura Butterbrodt / Duluth News Tribune

McGough Construction will now transfer control of the building to Essentia Health, but will remain on-site until 100% completion.

The building will undergo several inspections in the coming months, including from architects, the Minnesota Department of Health and the city of Duluth, which will grant Essentia its certificate of occupancy verifying all life-safety measures are in place and mechanical systems are operational. Once that is complete, equipment, supplies and furniture can be installed.

🔉 Host Brian Piatt and psychologist Dr. Anastasia Ristau discuss how movement can help you maneuver your mind.
Licensed practical nurses are still needed at many Northland employers, but the profession is less popular as a long-term career today than it was.
The proposal would let thousands of nurses treat patients without physician oversight.
Superior High School's advisory team addresses how the commercial tobacco industry's targets teenagers
With the federal declaration of the end of the public health emergency earlier this month, North Shore Health announced its care center never recorded a coronavirus case.
State air experts suggest limiting outdoor activities until the smoke clears on Friday
🔉 Host Brian Piatt shares four ways he maneuvers the noise of his mind on a daily basis.
The initiative was organized by National Honor Society members at the high school.
🔉 Bryan is joined by Kelly Grosklags for a conversation about the process of approaching the pain we feel so it isn't so scary.
A recent majority report from the US Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee found that new drug shortages increased by nearly 30% between 2021 and 2022.

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.
What To Read Next
Get Local