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Altru leaders brief neighbors on construction impacts

Jonathan Holth and Josh Kehrwald of JLG Architects share details about Altru's new hospital at a Jan. 10 neighborhood meeting. Photo by Dan Niepow/Grand Forks Herald1 / 2
Residents filed into the cafeteria at Altru's current site to hear from project planners. Photo by Dan Niepow/Grand Forks Herald2 / 2

Roughly three dozen residents on Thursday gathered in a lower-level room on Altru's campus to get a sneak peek of plans for a new $305 million hospital.

Construction is slated to start on the seven-story facility next month, pending approvals from the North Dakota Department of Health, project planners said.

Thursday's event marked the first of several neighborhood meetings, which are being held to brief nearby residents on any construction-related issues. One chief concern for the hospital's neighbors will be noise as contractors drive in 800 piles over the course of 15 weeks, said Brad Hendrickson, area manager and project executive with PCL Construction Services Inc. After that's completed, things will get "a little bit quieter" as concrete is poured and walls are erected, he said.

"It is a little bit disruptive both on our campus for our patients and families that come here and also for the town," said Brad Wehe, CEO of Altru Health System. "We've worked hard to minimize that."

Altru leaders have maintained that the project won't involve any traffic disruptions on Columbia Road or other major thoroughfares since all the construction equipment will be situated away from main roads.

After hearing brief presentations from Altru leaders and representatives from JLG Architects and PCL/Community, attendees moved into the cafeteria for more details on the new facility. Project planners showcased site plans and block models of the new hospital, which will include an updated helipad.

The entire construction process is expected to wrap up in 2022's first quarter. Once the new facility is built, there will be a five-to-six-month period to make sure all elements of the new hospital are in order.

"A hospital is not like a restaurant. You can't have a 'family-and-friends night' at a hospital the way you can at a restaurant (to) get all the kinks worked out," said Josh Kehrwald, senior project manager with JLG Architects. "When we go live in a hospital, we have to know everything about that building."

To be built at the site of the existing hospital at 1200 S. Columbia Road, the updated facility is aimed at promoting healing in a "park-like" environment, Kehrwald said.

"We want to surround the hospital with more of a green environment ... something that's a little more conducive to healing," he said. "There's a trend that health care and healing is enhanced when you have access to natural environments."

The project's planners also will integrate the new building with the nearby Sertoma Park, Kehrwald said.

The new hospital will make way for new technology and services, according to Altru's website on the project.

"We strive to be like Mayo Clinic. We are not there yet. We know we have lots of work to do in certain areas, and there are other areas where we feel we are pretty world class," Wehe said. "This facility will be world class. It will be state of the art."

Dan Niepow

Niepow covers social and community issues for the Grand Forks Herald. Before joining the paper, he worked as a magazine writer and editor. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he currently resides over the river in East Grand Forks, Minn. To reach Niepow with story ideas, send him an email at dniepow@gfherald.com or call him at (701) 780-1110. Follow him on Twitter @dniep.

(701) 780-1110
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