RENDERINGS REVEALED FOR ESSENTIA HEALTH'S $800 MILLION "VISION NORTHLAND" PROJECT

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Feast your eyes on the renderings for Essentia Health’s “Vision Northland.” 

The massive $800 million, 930,000 square foot project will see the creation of state-of-the-art medical facilities that will allow Essentia Health to be able to provide the highest level of health care to the Northland.

Plans for the “Vision Northland” project include $675 million for the creation of a new hospital tower, clinic and outpatient surgery center along with the renovation of 115,000 square feet of existing space. An additional $125 million will be used for infrastructure upgrades and financing costs.

The decision to build up versus out was intentional. Essentia Health wants to reduce their overall footprint within the Central Hillside neighborhood in order to open space for other development to occur. This plan will will ultimately create a stronger neighborhood that not only serves Essentia Health and the surrounding medical district but the community of Duluth as well.

Construction on the project is expected to begin this year with a completion set for 2022.

LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD

Something that is unique in the planning process for this project is that you have a chance to voice your opinion. The means you also have the chance to affect the overall design for the massive project.

Public comments will be accepted by the City of Duluth through March 13 and you’ve got a number of ways to submit yours.

You can access an electronic copy of the environmental assessment worksheet prepared by Essentia Health by clicking here. There are also hard copies provided at the main branch of the Duluth Public Library downtown and also at the Mount Royal and West Duluth branches. Lastly, the Duluth Planning and Economic Development Office (411 W. First St., Room 110) also has hard copies available. 

On March 12th at 5pm, the Duluth Planning Commission will hold a public hearing within the Council Chambers at City Hall for comments on the environmental worksheet. If you can’t make it to that meeting you can also submit questions or share ideas on the project by visiting Essentia Health’s Vision Northland website here.

With all this being said we have one last thing to say. Don’t waste this chance to make sure your voice is heard on the city of Duluth’s largest development project ever.

VACANT YOUNKER'S SPACE HAS FOUND A BUYER

Younker’s during it’s closing sale in 2018 (MPR News)

Younker’s during it’s closing sale in 2018 (MPR News)

What once was retail is now becoming space for healthcare.

It was a tough year last year at the Miller Hill Mall when not only Younker’s closed but also Sears, both due to bankruptcies. Many malls across are losing one anchor tenant, but to lose two within months of each other is very uncommon. The two closures left almost 300,000 square feet of vacant retail space at the Miller Hill Mall resulting in a major leasing challenge.

But good news, the vacant Younker’s space at the Miller Hill Mall officially has a buyer. 

Essentia Health has purchased the vacant space for $3.2 million. The building covers 145,000 square feet of space on two levels and has two different access points to the interior of the mall along with two different access points on the exterior leading to a large parking lot.

A RETAIL EPIDEMIC

While many were hoping for more retail to take over the space (rumors of Dillard’s even surfaced earlier in the year) the purchase by Essentia Heath and the change in use of the space is actually very common in the mall world these days.

Vacant Younker’s space (TDTDULUTH)

Vacant Younker’s space (TDTDULUTH)

With large vacancies occurring at malls throughout the country property owners have needed to get creative in finding ways to fill them and trust us, they have. Spaces have become large fitness centers, universities, creative office space, housing and more. 

In the Twin Cities multiple malls are dealing with the closing of anchor tenants just like the Miller Hill Mall. Southdale Center in Edina lost anchor tenant JCPenney and in response sold the vacant space to LifeTime Fitness who has since then torn down the building and is now constructing a massive fitness center, co-working space and retail space. Just North of Minneapolis Rosedale Center is dealing with the same problem of losing an anchor tenant when Herberger’s closed last year. Sources have stated that the JLL, the company that owns Rosedale Center, has plans to tear down the Herberger’s space and in its place build a large mixed-use development with housing, a hotel, retail/restaurant space and more.

So, with all this being said Essentia Health moving into the former Younker’s space isn’t out of the norm, it actually IS the new norm.

WHAT’S INSTORE (LITERALLY)?

That’s a good question. Not many details on what Essentia Health plans to do with the space have been made public. 

Rumors are swirling that the Essentia Health Fitness and Therapy Center located at 402 E. Second St. will be relocating from Downtown Duluth to the Younker’s space. The reason for the move is due to Essentia Health’s $800+ million “Vision Northland” plan which will replace the center with a large new medical building/campus.  

The relocation makes sense overall but the question that we are pondering is whether or not Essentia Health will truly take up the entire space.

WHAT WE THINK THE FUTURE COULD HOLD

To begin with, it’s a lot of space. Because it’s a lot of space it would make sense for Essentia Health to take over the upper floor and a portion of the lower level while designating some of the space that is directly next to the mall corridors for retail use. Whether or not Essentia Health would own that space and lease it themselves or potentially even sell it to the mall’s owner, Simon Properties, is a question that still remains.

Here’s another thing that could happen. Essentia Health could demolish the existing building altogether. 

Sounds pretty crazy… but it’s actually not when you think about it. Essentia Health is currently investing millions in a new Health and Wellness Center just down the road in Hermantown. What that might mean is that not all of the services currently offered at the downtown fitness center would transfer (i.e. the swimming pools) to the Younker’s space as they may be offered at the Hermantown Wellness Center. And, if they do plan on offering the exact same services there is going to need to be some SIGNIFICANT construction occurring in the existing space in order transform it. There’s a potential chance that the overall cost for rehabbing the current space might actually be more than just building an entirely new building itself.

At the moment we don’t have many details to share on the exact plans that Essentia Health has instore but when we do we’ll be sure to post more information about them right here.

 

Essentia Health plans Hermantown Wellness Center

Twin Ports residents, your wish has been granted.

That wellness center (think community center) that you've been dreaming about for decades now might not be that far down the road... literally. Essentia Health along with the city of Hermantown announced recently that a new $17 million wellness center will be built on the corner of Arrowhead Road and Ugsted Road in Hermantown.

Construction of the new facility will take place on the site of the former Hermantown MIddle School. The land and building where generously donated by the Hermantown school board. A portion of the building will be reused while an addition will also be added allowing the structure to cover 72,000 square feet in area (almost three times the size of your local Michael's Arts and Crafts store).

Essentia Health will gain the name rights for the entire facility after a generous $2 million donation was made allowing the initial conception of the project to move forward. As more fundraising takes place for the project naming rights within the building including community spaces, such as the gym, will be awarded.

Interior rendering  | LHB

WHAT'S INSIDE?

Plans for the building include quite a bit. The focal point of the project will be the aquatics center, a space that will include a swimming pool along with, hold your chairs kids, a play area COMPLETE with water slide.

The rest of the building will include space for the local YMCA along with Essentia Health and of course communal spaces. Within those spaces a gym, fitness center with locker rooms, clinic spaces, daycare, classrooms, and other community space will be included. It will truly be a space for the community to take pride and gather in.

THE FUNDS

Funding for $17 million project will come from a few different resources. $2 million as previously mentioned will come from Essentia Health. Another $2.5 million will come from the YMCA while $8 million is expected to come from the state (if approved in the 2016 legislative session). The remaining $4.5 million will come from the city of Hermantown along with St. Louis county. 

Essentia Health's donation will not only give it overall naming rights but also 9,000 square feet of space within the building to house a clinic featuring wellness programs along with space for sports and physical therapy.

TIMELINE

If all goes according to plan and the project receives state aid, construction would begin in 2017 with an opening scheduled for Spring 2018. The project would employ 15 full time employees and nearly 200 part-time employees. 

As always, check back to CDINDULUTH for the latest in Twin Ports development news!