Fairview Health Services is launching a significant renovation project at its flagship University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis that includes new space for the hospital's emergency department plus two new high-tech operating rooms.

Officials with Minneapolis-based Fairview confirmed Thursday that its board of directors approved last year a capital investment of $111.6 million for a project that's expected to start this month and stretch into 2020.

Situated on the U's East Bank campus, the hospital doesn't have a lot of room to grow, but the project will begin with construction of a 7,000-square-foot addition along Harvard Street with extra room for emergency services on the first floor, and operating rooms on the second floor.

"The biggest component of the renovation is a renovation of our operating rooms," said John Doherty, president of Fairview's central region. "Many of those operating rooms are 20 to 30 years old, and we need to expand the size of those so that we accommodate the needs of the equipment that we use in surgeries nowadays."

In 2015, the University of Minnesota Medical Center was the state's second-largest hospital in terms of staffed beds, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Fairview is one of the state's largest nonprofit health systems, with about 32,000 employees. Its operations include 11 hospitals, more than 100 clinics, 40 pharmacies, long-term care facilities and a health insurer called PreferredOne.

In the past 18 months, two other large hospitals in the state have announced big construction projects.

In February, Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis said it would spend $29.2 million for an inpatient unit that provides neuroscience treatments. In March 2017, Mayo Clinic announced plans to spend $217 million at its St. Marys hospital campus — one of two facilities in Rochester that are operated as one hospital, with the biggest tally of staffed beds in Minnesota.

At the U, the expansion won't add licensed beds, Doherty said, and the goal of the project isn't to expand inpatient capacity. Regions Hospital in St. Paul currently is seeking approval from the Legislature for more bed licenses to accommodate expected growth.

Instead, Fairview wants to improve the space for patients seeking emergency and short-stay services. In addition, the two new operating rooms will include access to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which Doherty said is key for patients undergoing complex brain surgeries.

"The most significant new technology we're adding in this renovation is probably intraoperative MRI," Doherty said. "It's a very cutting-edge technology where you have … an MRI between two operating suites, and that MRI is on tracks or rails where it can be moved from room to room safely."

The overall renovation project has a fairly long timeline to allow for phased construction, Doherty said, as the hospital renovates around existing patient care spaces.

Christopher Snowbeck • 612-673-4744 Twitter: @chrissnowbeck