Breathing New Life into History: The Duluth Depot HVAC Renovation Project

April 2, 2024

The Duluth Depot stands as a testament to the rich history and vibrant culture of the Duluth community. However, preserving the iconic landmark comes with its challenges, particularly ensuring modern comfort while maintaining its historical integrity.


In the beginning of 2023, we initiated the predesign phase with a comprehensive design team comprising Windsor Engineers (MEP Engineers), Meyer Borgman Johnson (Structural Engineers), and ourselves: Architecture Advantage (Architecture & Interior Design). This predesign phase held significant importance in our design journey due to the intricate nature of the project, which involves two interconnected buildings: the Historic Depot side and the Performing Arts side.


The preservation of historical buildings frequently requires delicately navigating between restoration and renovation. The Duluth Depot HVAC renovation project has encountered numerous challenges in striking this balance. Presently, the HVAC system is in a dire state—outdated, complex to troubleshoot, and in need of repair. Providing comfort and meeting the needs of county users and multiple tenants proves challenging with 17 air handling units (AHUs) scattered across inaccessible areas, servicing various spaces.

Track Level – Existing AHU Plan

Level 02 – Existing AHU Plan

Michigan Street – Existing AHU Plan

Level 04 + Mezzanine – Existing AHU Plan


Working with St. Louis County, our team put together and released a robust predesign in the fall of 2023 which was critical in their bonding request efforts. The predesign cost estimate has the complicated project valued at a $16M project ($11.342 request, $4.658 match). We have had the pleasure of working with Mary Tennis, Director of the St. Louis County Depot & Extension Services, and her team who have been an integral part in our design process and the lobbying for the 2024 Bonding Request.


We are presently advancing through the Design Development phase of the project, while the county has issued a public Request for Proposals (RFP) to hire a Construction Manager at Risk (CM@R). Submitted proposals are currently undergoing review for the selection of the winning firm. The inclusion of a Construction Manager at Risk (CM@R) in the project team will provide invaluable expertise in managing the intricacies of constructability, pricing, and tenant phasing throughout the construction phase.


The brochure St. Louis County shared during the Duluth & St. Louis County Days at the Capitol in March can be found here. Additionally, Mary Tennis recently published a fantastic update on the Depot’s blog, highlighting the project, which can be read here.


Check out our other St. Louis County projects:

St. Louis County Depot Canopy (2023)

St. Louis County Courthouse Boardroom (2022)

St. Louis County Sheriff’s Training Center (2022)