Officials are proposing two new buildings as part of a yearslong effort to rearrange Hennepin County Medical Center’s footprint in downtown Minneapolis.

Hennepin Healthcare has been plotting an HCMC campus overhaul since 2021. Current plans call for a 500-patient inpatient tower at Eighth Street and Chicago Avenue, as well as a 1,000-space parking ramp on a parcel immediately to the south. The new ramp would replace an existing 1,400-space parking ramp that would be demolished to make way for the new inpatient tower.

Hennepin Healthcare CEO Jennifer DeCubellis and other officials presented the latest plans for HCMC during an Elliot Park Neighborhood Association meeting last month. They hope to start construction in 2025 and wrap up in 2032. 

DeCubellis says it is less expensive to build a new building than it is to maintain the old buildings that Hennepin Healthcare plans to decommission. Updated cost estimates for the inpatient tower and ramp wasn’t provided; however, Axios previously reported that the ramp alone is estimated to cost $100 million. Hennepin County allocated $116 million in its budgets over the years to support planning for the tower. 

The inpatient tower’s design hasn’t been finalized yet, but hospital leaders anticipate that it would have larger rooms and enhanced technology, according to DeCubellis. “Families want to come in and be with their loved ones. Our rooms right now tend to either be double-up rooms (with more than one patient), or they're smaller spaces,” she told Downtown Voices after the June 12 meeting.

HCMC campus map featuring Hennepin Healthcare’s proposed changes by H. Jiahong Pan

The countywide health care system plans to demolish the Parkside Professional Building at Ninth Avenue and Eighth Street, on the same block as the parking ramp that will be razed, as well. Officials also plan to decommission four interconnected buildings at the northeast corner of Eighth Street and Chicago Avenue. Built between 1929 and 1971, these buildings formerly comprised the Metropolitan Medical Center, and now they’re referred to as the Orange, Green, Blue, and Shapiro buildings. 

The Orange, Green, Blue, and Shapiro buildings support expectant and new mothers and their children, those who have trouble sleeping or neurological issues, those needing transplants, as well as those who need psychiatric help. The Parkside Professional Building is home to doctors’ offices and a basement-level Southeast Asian restaurant called Mayta’s.

Before work can begin on the new inpatient tower, the 1,000-space parking ramp needs to be built to offset the loss of the 1,400-space parking ramp. Consultants retained by the hospital predict that it doesn’t need quite as many parking spaces as it currently has. 

Over the past three years, County commissioners have allocated $96 million to support the ramp’s design, land acquisition, and construction. The ramp still needs zoning, permit, and street vacation approvals from the City. Perhaps most importantly, the ramp proposal requires the acquisition of four separate parcels of surface parking lots, which currently aren’t on the market. Two of those parcels were last sold in 2010 for $450,000, while the other two parcels are valued at a combined $1.67 million, according to the County assessor.

The replacement ramp is being proposed despite access to high-capacity transit lines nearby, including Metro Transit’s C and D Lines, which stop at HCMC. “Transit doesn’t run 24/7, so we need to get nurses, doctors, health care workers, environmental services, we need to get our people into the hospital for those shift changes,” DeCubellis said, adding that patients and visitors come to the hospital from across the state. “So it's not always possible for people to take transit in.”

Hennepin Healthcare CEO Jennifer DeCubellis presents during an Elliot Park Neighborhood Association meeting on June 12. Photo by H. Jiahong Pan

County and hospital officials chose the site for the ramp after deciding last May not to expand a different parking ramp at Sixth Street and Park Avenue after bids came in over budget. “The bids came back so high because we were tying into an existing structure, which makes it more expensive,” DeCubellis said.

Hospital officials also decided the new ramp should be as close to patient facilities as possible. “Because we're seeing more and more limited mobility, especially in our older population, getting closer to that inpatient tower made sense, and was fiscally lower cost,” DeCubellis said, adding that the ramp would connect to the inpatient tower and the Clinic & Specialty Center by skyway.

The Elliot Park Neighborhood Association in June voiced conceptual support for the new ramp. The neighborhood association did not vote on the inpatient tower because Hennepin Healthcare did not ask it to do so.

The Hospital Parking Ramp at Eighth Street and Chicago Avenue will be demolished so the site can be redeveloped. Photo by H. Jiahong Pan

Hennepin Healthcare hopes to break ground on the new ramp next year. Once the ramp is complete, hospital staff will construct the inpatient tower. “The hope is in eight years to have the new tower up and operational,” DeCubellis said. Officials plan to present their plans before the City’s Committee of the Whole this month.

DeCubellis says Hennepin Healthcare also plans to renovate HCMC’s 66-bed emergency department to alleviate long wait times. “We know we need more stabilization beds, we need faster triage,” DeCubellis said. The new inpatient tower could alleviate pressure on the emergency department, she noted, since it would free up more beds for emergency room patients who require inpatient care.

HCMC was established in 1887 by the City of Minneapolis. Ownership transferred to Hennepin County in 1964. In 2007, Hennepin County spun off ownership of the hospital to a nonprofit entity, Hennepin Healthcare. Now, nurses want the County to wrest HCMC from the nonprofit; and the County implemented some controls through its budget last December.

HCMC is one of three Level 1 trauma centers in the Twin Cities. The others are North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale and Regions Hospital in St. Paul. Hospitals with a Level 1 trauma designation provide total care for every aspect of injuries, according to the American Trauma Society.