The Lake View Hospital and Medical Clinic in Two Harbors celebrated the start of a $15 million expansion project Tuesday, May 7.

Medical center staff, community leaders and construction partners gathered in the parking lot between the two facilities to ceremoniously mark the start of the first phase of construction. The new two-level, 36,000-square-foot building will link the hospital and clinic, provide a single entrance, includes a public meeting center with room for up to 90 people, and expanded inpatient pharmacy. The 14-month construction project, designed by architect BWBR and being built by Kraus-Anderson Construction Co., is expected to be completed in July 2020.

"Our goal with this project is really to define the future of health care in rural communities," Lake View CEO Greg Ruberg said. " And we hope it's a model that will be used across the country in rural communities to really focus on patients in our community in more than just simple medical care delivery."

Ruberg said the project focuses on meeting the patient needs and anticipating future changes in technology.

"A lot of the space that we've designed is flexible space that we can adapt pretty quickly and easily to respond to external changes that are happening," Ruberg said.

The new entry point will provide private registration areas to maximize efficiency and patient confidentiality. Right off the entrance will be a new integrated lab that will combine the hospital and clinic labs into one convenient space. The inpatient pharmacy will provide the space and updated technology which will allow onsite infusion therapy, such as chemotherapy or IV treatments.

The community gathering space will provide space to house health and wellness programs and classes to "focus on keeping community members healthy, rather than just treating illnesses later in life," Ruberg said.

"We're redefining how we view care to be more modern and proactive," Ruberg said.

There are also plans for the new building to house a future urgent care space as well as space for future surgery and procedures.

The design process for the new building included meeting with the Lake View board of directors, patient and family advisory committees as well as input from the staff of both facilities.

"The input and ideas from so many here at Lake View helped to make this project one we can all be proud of," Lake View Board Chair Rick Hogenson said. "This expansion project will not only connect the hospital and clinic but also connect those we serve today and in the future."

Lake County Board Chair Rich Sve echoed this statement of personal connection, noting that the hospital has been instrumental in the many stages of his life.

"I was born the year that the hospital was built. So on the way to the hospital, my dad drove past this construction site to take my mom down to Duluth. I've had one surgery in my life and that was performed in this building," Sve said. "My mother and mother-in-law both worked here at various times. Both my children were born here. And with this expansion, I'm looking forward to the next 60 years of Lake View providing health care in our community."