Construction projects in health care keep coming, with plans announced Tuesday for a $140 million expansion and renovation at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park.

Methodist is the flagship medical center for the Park Nicollet system, which merged at the start of 2013 with Bloomington-based HealthPartners.

The new project will add two new inpatient floors, revamp the surgery center and transform almost all patient rooms into private rooms.

"We do have an older building," said Roxanna Gapstur, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital. "Our room sizes and things are probably not as spacious as what you would see in many of the other Twin Cities hospitals. And then, we do have a lot of semiprivate rooms."

The Methodist project likely ranks among the 10 largest hospital projects in Minnesota in recent years. Since 2005, the Minnesota Department of Health has tracked seven other capital spending commitments at hospitals of more than $100 million.

Tuesday's announcement was somewhat surprising because inpatient admissions at hospitals have been trending downward, said Allan Baumgarten, an independent hospital analyst in St. Louis Park. Plus, health systems like HealthPartners have backed programs that should reduce the need for inpatient care.

"One of the measures of success will be your ability to keep people out of hospitals," Baumgarten said.

But hospitals in Minnesota and across the country have invested heavily in construction projects so they can offer patients private rooms.

"There's a heavy marketing component in all of this," Baumgarten said.

HealthPartners is one of the state's largest health insurance companies. It also owns and operates hospitals and clinics across the Twin Cities, including Regions Hospital in St. Paul. While Regions in 2012 ranked No. 6 among hospitals in the state in terms of available patient beds, Methodist Hospital ranked No. 9 at the time, according to health department figures.

The project at Methodist won't add hospital beds, but it will create a new sterilization and decontamination area to improve flow to and from the surgery area.

Currently, more than one-third of hospital rooms at Methodist are double occupancy. The hospital tries to admit just one patient per room, Gapstur said, but patients must double up in busy times such as the flu season. The new private rooms will feature more room and quieter surroundings for friends and family to visit patients, she said.

Construction at Methodist is scheduled for completion in 2019.

Known for its specialty care services, Park Nicollet Methodist has had several construction projects in recent years including a major renovation of its family birth center in 2014. Other hospitals also have been announcing starts or finishes to construction projects.

Last month, Allina Health System and Children's Hospitals & Clinics announced plans for a new $32 million mother-baby center in St. Paul. Last year, Hennepin County Medical Center announced plans for a $191 million clinic and specialty center in downtown Minneapolis.

Fairview Health Services plans to open on Monday a specialty expansion to its hospital in Princeton, and a new emergency center in August at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina.

While hospital admissions have been trending downward across the industry, Methodist did relatively well in 2014. Admissions were up by 0.6 percent as Park Nicollet overall posted $59.6 million in operating income on about $1.31 billion in revenue.

The financial results were improved over 2013, when Park Nicollet had operating income of about $35.5 million on $1.26 billion in revenue.

HealthPartners is the third-largest hospital operator in the Twin Cities, Baumgarten said, behind the Minneapolis-based Allina and Fairview systems.

Christopher Snowbeck • 612-673-4744

Twitter: @chrissnowbeck