Altru to break ground on new facility in June

"We've found our community's feedback super valuable"

Altru will break ground on its new multi-million-dollar hospital on June 5, a day that also will include an open-house with music and a light meal.

Community members likely have seen fences go up and large equipment move into the space in preparation for utility relocation to begin at the end of April.

“We are on budget and on schedule,” said Brad Wehe, CEO of Altru.

The new hospital is now budgeted to cost $305 million.

After the groundbreaking, there will be a community celebration, Wehe said. There will be musical entertainment and a light meal, free of charge.

“We’ve found our community’s feedback super valuable,” Wehe said. “I’m proud of our region. They’ve been really involved and that has helped us.”

This new hospital comes after Altru lost the main clinic because of a structural failure in 2017. Altru leaders initially planned to rebuild the clinic, but instead decided to build a new hospital.

This new hospital will be situated on the South Columbia Road campus just north of the current emergency and urgent care entrance, where the main clinic used to stand.

The construction team will start setting steel in October, which is when Josh Kehrwald, senior project manager at JLG Architects, said passersby will start to see progress in the construction.

“Up until that point everything will be from the ground down,” Kehrwald said.

Canada-based PCL Community is doing the construction work.

Wehe said parking for patients and families will not be affected by the construction. Staff parking has been affected, however, resulting in the construction of a temporary lot near Sertoma Park in the fall.

“We’ve taken access, convenience and safety really seriously as we’ve gone through this process,” Wehe said.

One example of this, Wehe said, is vibration and noise monitors that have been installed underground on the construction site. These sensors monitor how much vibration is created from movement on the site. The sensors can then reduce the vibrations.

“We will be monitoring them closely to make sure we’re not creating problems for the cancer center or other surgical equipment,” Kehrwald said.

The hospital likely will be completed at the beginning of 2022, but will not be fully functional until some time at the “end of the third quarter” in that year.

“A hospital is a very complex building,” Kehrwald said. “We’ve got a lot of training and new technologies and processes to get used to.”

According to Kehrwald, there will be a five- to six-month period when both buildings are up, but only the current hospital will be operating.

The current facility will then be demolished and a new parking lot will be built.

In January, Altru showed Grand Forks residents what patient rooms, operating rooms, intensive care units and labor delivery rooms will look like. The health system hosted an event in a warehouse where residents could see foam mock-ups of the new hospital’s rooms.

The new rooms will be bigger than rooms in the existing hospital and there will be dedicated space for families and more access to natural light, Kehrwald previously told the Herald.

The health system also held a meeting in October of 2018 to give residents a chance to ask questions about the new facility and learn about the latest plans.

Community members can learn more about the process at a second “neighborhood meeting” on May 1.