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DULUTH — Duluth's St. Mary's Medical Center will be demolished when Essentia Health's new hospital tower opens in 2023.

The health care organization made the decision with the Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery, who first cared for patients on the downtown site in 1898, 10 years after St. Mary's Hospital began operating in Duluth's Lincoln Park neighborhood.

"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," Essentia Health CEO Dr. David C. Herman said in a news release.

The current hospital's high operating and maintenance costs, including those for heating, cooling, electrical and plumbing systems, played into the decision and rendered renovating or repurposing the building impractical, according to the news release.

"The legacy of caring and the mission of the Benedictine Sisters will continue in the new St. Mary's Medical Center," said Sister Beverly Raway, prioress of the St. Scholastica Monastery.

The oldest part of the city's largest hospital was completed in 1923. The new 12-story hospital tower — with 942,000 square feet of new construction extending skyward — is part of Essentia's $900 million project that has already changed the downtown landscape. The project includes renovation of existing clinic space, private patient rooms and space for changing health care technology.

Essentia, along with a local consulting firm, is working with the city of Duluth and others on potential redevelopment of the current hospital site, which sits north of the new tower.

St. Mary's will come down once the new hospital is serving patients, likely in the second half of 2023.