Children’s hospital latest development planned for Riverside Avenue

An aerial-view image of the new children’s hospital, set to break ground this winter. Riverside Avenue is in the foreground, at the bottom of the rendering.

Photo by Illustration courtesy of University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview

U of M Medical Center, Fairview seeks neighborhood input

Riverside Avenue has changed dramatically in recent years — most notably with the construction of the University of Minnesota’s Arts Quarter — and the transformation continues with the sound of construction going on at institutions along the neighborhood’s second main drag.

Between 19th and 20th avenues, Herbert M. Hanson Jr. Hall is rising where there once was a parking lot. Expected to open in 2008, the 124,000-square-foot building will house the undergraduate program of the U’s Carlson School of Management and connect, via skyway, to the existing Carlson School building.

A couple of blocks east, workers are putting the finishing touches on the Oren Gateway Center at Augsburg College. Set to open Aug. 1, the building will feature a Barnes & Noble bookstore, a restaurant, offices, an alumni center and housing for the college’s StepUp program for students in sobriety.

For now, another two blocks east at 25th Avenue South and Riverside, there is relative calm in the large “green” parking lot that accommodates visitors and patients at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview Riverside hospital. By 2010, however, that parking lot will be home to the University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital, Fairview.

The construction, set to begin this December, is the first and most visible phase in a long-term plan to update the hospital. The new building will connect to the existing Riverside East Building via tunnels and skyways and include new underground parking. The addition will be built with the minimum amount of impact on the environment as possible, according to hospital officials, who are seeking comments from the community as the project proceeds.

The $175 million, 185,000-square-foot addition to the existing hospital will consolidate the pediatric services — predominantly located on the university’s East Bank campus across the river — at the Riverside campus. Preliminary plans call for much of the adult care currently at the Riverside facility — such as imaging and adult acute care — to move to the East Bank.

All children’s services, including pediatric intensive care, inpatient acute-care beds, and pediatric blood and marrow transplants will move to the new children’s hospital building. Adult and pediatric behavioral health will remain on the Riverside campus, and the hospital plans to maintain adult emergency services at the Riverside location.

The new children’s facility will not increase the number of pediatric beds, said Jean Tracy, communications director for the medical center, but it will enhance the quality of the facilities. “Basically, we’re shifting patients around,” she said.

During the current planning phase, officials are taking advantage of “user groups” consisting of physicians, nurses and clinical staff to determine the new configuration of services.
These ideas will then be passed to architects who will design the “box” in which those things will fit. Another group will then work on the physical items and equipment necessary for the new addition, and still another group will work on the outside of the building.

Tracy said the schematics of the building should be completed this spring, and drawings and a model should be completed by the end of the summer.

Involving the neighborhood

Since the announcement of the addition back in January, hospital officials have been working with the hospital staff, as well as with members of the greater West Bank community, to plan a facility that they hope will meet the needs of staff members while benefiting the patients and the neighborhood.

Hospital officials will consult with other institutions along the Riverside Avenue corridor — the College of St. Catherine, Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota. Likewise, officials plan to solicit the input of the hospital’s constituency and the wider community through internal forums at the hospital and meetings with organizations such as the West Bank Community Coalition, Cedar-Riverside Business Association, Ward 2 Council Member Cam Gordon and the residents themselves.

“We’ve done a lot of outreach because this obviously affects a lot of people” said Katherine Cooper, communications manager for the children’s hospital.

The hospital construction should not require any closure of Riverside Avenue, but it could require the closing of South Seventh Street, the access road directly in front of the hospital. It should not cause a large disruption to the community, Cooper said.

“Most of [the construction] will be contained to that one square block where the building will go,” Cooper said. “It shouldn’t really affect Riverside. All of it will come towards [the existing facility] and not into the community.”

Both Cooper and Tracy feel that, with community input, the project will be a benefit to the neighborhood. “We know that having everything centralized will benefit our patients,” Cooper said.

Cooper views the new facility as a positive opportunity for Cedar-Riverside businesses, as well, which she feels will fulfill the needs of visiting families. Tracy agreed. “If anything, it will help [business] because more families with children will be on this campus,” she said.

If you have any questions or concerns about the upcoming construction, call the hospital’s comment line at 612-273-6995 or email umchf@fairview.org.

last revised: May 15, 2007