Planned Parenthood is moving forward with an expansion of its Uptown Minneapolis clinic, its busiest facility in Minnesota, so it can serve up to three times the number of patients.

Earlier this week, the Minneapolis Planning Commission approved a site plan and variance for the expanded clinic, located at 1200 Lagoon Av. It would be 29,000 square feet and three stories tall, replacing an aging one-story building that representatives for the health care provider said will be demolished.

"Every time we add a time slot or add a health care provider to the schedule, those slots fill up automatically," said Jennifer Aulwes, communications director for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. "So we know there's a need and a demand."

The Uptown clinic, the only one in Minneapolis, serves around 14,000 patients a year, Aulwes said. It has been in the neighborhood for more than 20 years.

Planned Parenthood had wanted to expand the location eventually and began interviewing patients a couple of years ago to learn what they wanted in a new clinic. Designs and details were revealed last year.

The $14.4 million project, funded primarily by donors, would look drastically different from the current space, with a glass-enclosed stairwell, brick exterior and metal paneling. It includes two levels of employee parking and a surface parking lot, surrounded by a gate that will be locked overnight.

"We're hoping to really make this a very modern, very fresh place that patients are going to feel very welcome in," Aulwes said.

The building's second floor will have a clinic with up to three times the number of exam rooms as the current space. The third floor will house an education and outreach team, which will go out to colleges and high schools, and a call center that provides services for surrounding states and Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. It will also include a clinical research lab, which the nonprofit began a few years ago.

In addition to birth control, HIV and STD testing, pregnancy services and physical exams, the clinic will be able to provide medication abortions, also known as the abortion pill, Aulwes said. In-clinic abortions are performed at the Planned Parenthood facility in St. Paul.

Leaders for the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association formally expressed their support for the expansion in a letter last year.

"There is a growing community need for Planned Parenthood services," the letter reads. "We applaud their efforts not only in wanting to stay in our neighborhood but also expand the clinical and administrative space in the proposed building."

The current facility is expected to close Friday, and a temporary clinic will open Monday, two blocks away at 918 W. Lake St.

Crews could begin building in March or April, Aulwes said. The clinic is expected to reopen sometime in 2020.

If the planning commission's approval isn't appealed, final plans will then be submitted to the city for a building permit, according to senior city planner Mei-Ling Smith.

Miguel Otárola • 612-673-4753