ST. PAUL-HealthEast Care System plans a $70-million expansion and renovation project at St. Joseph’s Hospital in the Downtown area. Eight years after they considered shutting St. Joseph’s Hospital in Downtown St. Paul, HealthEast officials say construction will begin in March 2006.

The project will include a 175,000-sf, five-story patient tower adjacent to the hospital’s parking ramp, a 15,000-sf addition to a remodeled emergency room, a $500,000 helipad, a new lobby and new homes for its Heart Center and Neurovascular Institute. Another goal of the renovation at St. Joseph’s is to have 100% private rooms for the medical and surgical patients.

Boldt Consulting has been hired to plan the project, and interviews with architectural firms are underway. HealthEast has allocated $3.5 million for the development of building plans, which will continue throughout the next year followed by a groundbreaking anticipated in early 2006. The entire project will take several years to complete.

“As HealthEast’s primary provider of specialty services such as cardiovascular and neuroscience services, St. Joseph’s Hospital has experienced consistent growth and increased patient demand since the mid-’90s,” says Tim Hanson, president and chief executive officer of HealthEast. St. Joseph’s is the latest in a string of recent expansion announcements by the region’s health care industry, which was hurt by an oversupply of hospital beds and services in the 1980s but now expects a boom in patients as the population ages.

The St. Joseph’s expansion follows plans unveiled last week for an $18-million, 100,000-sf specialty health care center on the north end of the United Hospital campus in St. Paul that will be developed by St. Paul Heart Clinic and Pulmonary Critical Care Associates. The day before, HealthPartners said it would build a $22-million, 130,000-sf specialty center on St. Paul’s East Side. In its 2004 fiscal year, St. Joseph’s has 401 licensed beds and more than 1,700 employees and 600 physicians on its medical staff.

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