If you've driven along Interstate 35 south of Duluth in the last several months, you've undoubtedly seen the massive construction project that has led to a gigantic building that spans much of the opening in the trees just before the first I-35 southbound Cloquet exit.

The scene started with the clearing of a large space in the area about 1.3 miles from the Scanlon exit. Work got underway during the summer, with the photo below captured in August of 2023 of the ground being prepared for construction.

Google Street View
Google Street View
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Since then, a giant cement structure has been erected, lined with a handful of windows along the top level and a series of large freight doors around the ground level. In my travels along the freeway, I've often wondered what the heck this monstrous new facility is.

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For many who just travel the freeway, you might not know this space is part of the Esko Industrial Park, which is also home to a handful of businesses further away from the interstate. In my travels along that stretch of road, I'd often wonder who was building such a massive facility. Is it a new manufacturer? A storage or shipping facility?

Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
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It turns out the 163,000-square-foot structure will actually be a warehouse and distribution facility for Essentia Health, which will support not only their Twin Ports area facilities, but more than 100 total facilities including in places like Brainerd, Fargo, and Bismarck.

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Pine Knot News reports the proximity to the freeway, Highway 210, and Minnesota Highway 33 made the location attractive for the new complex. The Pine Journal [PAYWALL] reports Essentia Health was looking for a new warehouse option as the lease on their 50,000-square-foot facility in West Duluth ends in 2024.

Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
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The new space will more than double their current storage capacity while also adding some office space. Of the 163,000 square feet, most of it will be warehouse space, while 5,000 square feet will reportedly be used for office space.

The new structure is far and away the largest occupant of the Esko Industrial Park, which is also home to businesses like Superior Fuel Company, Lohse Transfer, and Old Dominion Freight Line. The Essentia complex occupies the loop inside Bedrock Lane and Progress Drive.

Thomson/Esko Planning and Zoning
Thomson/Esko Planning and Zoning
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The new facility will be largely automated, with an anticipated staff of around 20-25 workers when it opens. The new facility is expected to open in the fall of 2024.

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Gallery Credit: Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth