Nearly two years after it was first announced, construction began in June on the new Essentia Health clinic in Cloquet.

In August 2019, the health care system announced it purchased the Driftwood Motel property on Highway 33 in Cloquet. After the motel was demolished and a groundbreaking ceremony was held in November 2019, the site sat empty for more than a year.

Construction was delayed after the costs of construction came back “substantially over budget,” according to Tammy Kritzer, senior vice president of regional operations for Essentia’s east market.

RELATED: Essentia's Cloquet clinic development still on hold

RELATED: Essentia plans Cloquet clinic

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An artist's rendering of a planned Essentia Health clinic on Highway 33 in Cloquet. (Rendering courtesy of Essentia Health)
An artist's rendering of a planned Essentia Health clinic on Highway 33 in Cloquet. (Rendering courtesy of Essentia Health)

Then the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and Essentia’s focus shifted away from building the new clinic.

“The primary reason that this was the way it was really related to the pandemic — it was such a disrupter to our business” Kritzer said. “Our volumes were so substantially disrupted, our focus needed to be on issues related to the pandemic, but that’s over and our commitment to this project has never waned.”

During the nearly two years between the announcement and the start of construction, the scope of the project changed. Instead of a 10,000-square-foot clinic, the spaces will now be approximately 8,500 square feet. Services offered at the clinic will include primary care, urgent care, radiology and lab services. It will also include specialty services like cardiology and orthopedics.

Kritzer said there was a need for the new clinic in Cloquet despite Community Memorial Hospital offering family health services and two privately operated clinics in Cloquet — the Raiter Family Clinic across Skyline Boulevard from CMH and Min-no-aya-win Human Services Center on the Fond du Lac Reservation. There is also a MedExpress Urgent Care facility in the Pine Tree Plaza Shopping Center.

“We believe there’s an unmet need in the community and our customers and our patients continue to tell us that they want to receive care as close to home as possible,” Kritzer said. Our data tells us that we serve many, many patients from the Cloquet community that drive to Duluth for primary care services. So consistent with our mission of making a healthy difference in people’s lives, we felt it was in the best interests of Cloquet to bring that primary care clinic with access closer to home to that community.”

Providers at the Cloquet clinic will begin to see patients in the first quarter of 2022, spokesperson Tony Matt said.

Essentia serves patients in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Idaho, according to its website. The company employs more than 14,000 people, including more than 2,000 physicians and advanced practitioners.