St. Louis County opens new service center in Virginia

Pictured above, the exterior view of the new government services building. The interior is pictured at bottom, right.


On time. And under budget.

A new $19 million St. Louis County Government Services Center opened last month in Virginia, providing county residents and employees with safer, more efficient and technologically-advanced services.

“It’s the first time north of Duluth that we have built a new building specifically designed for all of our departments and all of our employees,” said Keith Nelson, St. Louis County Sixth District commissioner. “I think that’s significant.”

On Sept. 9, the county’s Public Health and Human Services Department opened to residents within the building. By the end of the week, another seven departments, with a total center staffing of about 200, began in the center.

Located at First Street South between South Third Avenue and Fourth Avenues West, the center features a number of local materials. Counter tops are made of taconite, wood trim is made from black ash trees. A 330,000-watt array of solar panels on the roof was manufactured at Heliene, a solar panel producer in Mountain Iron.

“We really tried to think local,” said Tony Mancuso, St. Louis County property management director.  

Housed within the building are county public health and human services, veteran’s services, auditor, assessor, mine inspectors, environmental services, extension, information technology and human resources services.

Each of the departments has customer service offices on the first floor of the building, creating easy service access for county residents.

The near net-zero building is packed with energy efficiency features such as a super insulated roof, triple pane windows, LED lighting, occupancy lighting sensors and walls that exceed Minnesota energy codes. 

Geothermal heating and cooling is sourced from beneath the near net-zero building. A solar wall on the south side contains thousands of miniature holes that pre-heat outside air before it enters air handling units. Special interview rooms offer privacy for county clientele. 

“The operating and maintenance costs will be flattened and predictable for the life of this building,” said Mancuso. “What we see is an ease of public access and improved security for our employees and for the public. It’s a minimum life of 75 years for the building.”

Barring any unforeseen final costs, construction is expected to come in several hundred thousand dollars under budget, said Mancuso. 

DSGW Architects of Virginia, Duluth and the Twin Cities designed the structure. Max Gray Construction of Hibbing and Duluth is the contractor.

“These are both local companies who have done a fabulous job in bringing this to fruition,” said Nelson. “Working with local companies, we have a project that’s an example of getting things done the right way.”