The Hennepin County Medical Center campus in downtown Minneapolis is getting a makeover that will take about eight years and renovate about three of its 10 blocks, county officials announced this week.
The preliminary plan approved by the Hennepin County Board involves three phases of development on the east side of downtown. Early cost estimates exceed $140 million.
In the first phase, the county's 1980s era "purple" parking garage at 600 Park Ave. will be expanded and redeveloped into a $75 million, 1,053-stall facility and a $25 million emergency ambulance dispatch station and training center. Plans include a skyway connecting to the Thrivent headquarters building.
Contractor bidding and awards should be completed by the end of March. Construction will finish toward the end of 2024, said Hennepin County Administrator David Hough.
The project's second phase involves a $20 million expansion of the Hennepin Healthcare Clinic and Specialty Center that sits on 8th Street between Chicago and Park avenues. That building, constructed in 2018 for about $220 million, will be expanded on its north side.
The third phase of HCMC's campus redo involves constructing an in-patient hospital tower on what is now a three-story, 1,400-stall parking garage on the southeast corner of Chicago Avenue and 8th Street. That parking garage will be demolished to make way for the hospital only after the county finishes expanding its parking structure at 600 Park Av.
The county board of commissioners approved an initial $20 million in funding for the hospital leg of the project so design and construction planning could begin in earnest.
It is not yet known how many floors or beds the new hospital will have. Those along with many other details — including total construction costs — still have yet to be worked out, Hough said.
Still, city planners are excited to see some movement long in the making.
"It's been talked about for years. So now it's come to the point where the board has approved and given the green light, so we will go ahead and proceed with these phases. It's very exciting," Hough said.
To move the project forward, the Hennepin County Board is working with Hennepin Healthcare System's board of directors. It has approved various parts of a capital improvement budget plan that is expected to take years to carry out.
Many of Hennepin County Medical Center's buildings in downtown Minneapolis are old, obsolete and are ripe for being updated, repurposed or redeveloped entirely, Hough said.
Steve Cramer, chief executive of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, said he has been tracking the HCMC redevelopment planning process for more than a year.
It's positive, Cramer said, noting that health care is as important to the local economy as the retail, office and entertainment sectors downtown.
The HCMC project "is another big investment, so it will probably drive us toward another billion [dollar] investment year in Minneapolis, with most of that being downtown," Cramer said. The health care and parking improvements reach far beyond the hospital.
"It will connect that part of downtown with the skyway system, which is important. Extending the reach of the skyway system to a further frontier of downtown Minneapolis is positive from a commerce and livability standpoint," he said. "Anytime any aspect of the downtown economy is doing well, I think we can celebrate that."