After four years of fundraising, the International Institute of Minnesota in St. Paul will undergo a $12.5 million expansion and renovation.

The project, at 1694 Como Avenue, is scheduled to begin Thursday and will double the size of the crowded building that assists 4,000 new refugees, asylum seekers and other immigrants each year. The new space will allow the 102-year-old institution to serve an additional 500 immigrants each year.

"We have been crawling on top of each other for years," said Development Director Cori Ertz. "Even so, our programs continued to expand.'

The agency trains and places immigrants in health care and hospitality jobs and other fields and also teaches clients English. Workers help clients who are applying for green cards, citizenship, work authorizations and legal and humanitarian services.

"We serve refugees, asylum seekers, survivors of human trafficking, and families of unaccompanied children," from 100 countries across the globe, so the institute gets a lot of use, Ertz said. "The institute programs were really designed to make sure that immigrants who are recently arrived have the opportunity to train for careers that are needed in our community."

When construction is complete, the 18,000-square-foot institute building will gain another 16,000 square feet.

The addition will feature five new classrooms, a learning lab for those pursuing careers in nursing and hospitality, 10 new private meeting rooms and a host of renovations designed to make the building more accessible.

Stahl Construction has been hired as the general contractor.

JDD Studio, formerly James Dayton Design, and the architect behind the MacPhail Center for Music and the Westminster Presbyterian Church addition in Minneapolis will design the project.

A groundbreaking ceremony with state and city officials, students and funders, is set for 11 a.m. Thursday at the Institute's property, which is across from the State Fairgrounds.

The state contributed $3 million toward the building campaign. Another $3 million came from private donors.

The remainder was contributed by foundations, including the Hardenbergh Foundation, the Fred C. and Katherine B. Andersen Foundation, the Otto Bremer Trust, the St. Paul & Minnesota Foundation and the HRK Foundation.