HealthPartners eyes large East Side expansion

HealthPartners submitted a site plan for a 128,000-square-foot building to go alongside existing facilities at 295 Phalen Blvd., near where it intersects Interstate 35E. Leslie McMurray, director of the Payne-Phalen district council, expressed enthusiasm at the potential new building. (submitted photo)

Could mean major investment, new jobs

If what HealthPartners is planning comes to pass, the Phalen corridor will take on a whole new look.
The HMO has submitted a site plan to the city of St. Paul for a 128,000-square-foot, four-story neuroscience center to go up alongside existing facilities at 295 Phalen Blvd., according to Tom Beach, who oversees site plan reviews for the city of St. Paul.
It's also looking to put in a four-level 680-stall parking ramp.
Room to grow - up
Beach said the plans would even allow for future expansion, atop both the neuroscience facility and the parking ramp.
Annelise Searle, HealthPartners spokeswoman, said the plans are still tentative.
According to a statement from HealthPartners, the company is "currently in the planning stages of building a new, free-standing neuroscience center that will bring together our nationally recognized programs for stroke, spine care, neurological tumors, dementia, Parkinson's disease and other neurological disorders."
A courtesy call on District 5
HealthPartners staff met with members of the Payne Phalen district council's Community Planning and Economic Development board on Wednesday, Aug. 6, to inform them of the proposed facility.
The idea behind meeting with community members was simply "to build relationships with the community," and get input on the project, Searle said.
Al Oertwig, president of the Payne Phalen district council board, noted that the company came to the meeting out of courtesy rather than obligation.
He lauded the proposed project, noting that the East Side "is struggling with (jobs) that we lost in terms of 3M, Whirlpool, all that sort of stuff."
"For me this is a replacement of those jobs lost," he said.
Leslie McMurray, director of the Payne-Phalen district council, said the board members shared Oertwig's response to the plans.
"There was enthusiasm and appreciation that HealthPartners is investing in the corridor, creating a medical corridor along Phalen Boulevard."
McMurray said the company's expansion appears to be a significant investment -- possibly in the range of $75 million. 
"That's a big chunk of change for the neighborhood," she said.
McMurray said that in the meeting, neighbors emphasized the need for quality aesthetics -- basically, they want the building to look nice from homes up the bluff, as well as from the freeway and Phalen Boulevard. Interested residents can get a glimpse at rough renderings of the proposed building at the Payne Phalen district council offices. 
What's next?
Searle said additional information about the project will be available via HealthPartners once the project is more detailed, possibly in September.
McMurray also noted neighbors emphasized the importance of plugging in additional mass transit resources to the area.
"The district council is oriented towards looking at how transit can be creatively aligned with that project," she said.
Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.
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