ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Heavy construction is being planned for UNM’s Health Sciences campus, as the university is now planning on building a new hospital tower to relieve its crowded corridors.

The University of New Mexico is now in the design phase of building a multi-story hospital tower along Lomas Boulevard near Yale, along with a massive new parking garage for the hospital.

“We’re really excited to get this project off the ground,” said Mike Chicarelli, chief operating officer for the UNM Hospital.

The project comes after years of talk about expanding or possibly building a new hospital facility on the UNM campus. UNM is now hoping it can open the new hospital tower by October 2024. UNM says that building will not replace but will complement the older buildings on campus.

“We know that the build that we’re in now, the 1954 wing, and the new (Barbara & Bill Richardson) ‘Pavilion’ (building) that was built in 2007 will continue operations,” said Chicarelli.

Outlined in the new tower, UNM is planning space for 96 beds, including 24 intensive care unit beds; a new adult emergency department with around 50 exam rooms, and a whole new imaging center.

UNM is also looking building a new café, pharmacy, retail and education spaces in the new tower, along with other medical spaces, including a blood bank, “central sterile” space, logistics and more.

“We will have a new surgical suite in there as well, the surgical suite we have currently was built in 1954,” said Chicarelli.

The new tower is planned to sit on around 6.5 acres of land next to the Pavillion building. Today, the land is mostly surface parking, but also has UNM’s old Astronomy & Physics building along with the old parking garage.

Before the new tower gets built, UNM is planning to build a new 2,400 space parking garage on the old Medical Examiner office parking lot. The current 500 space parking garage will be torn down once that’s complete.

Chicarelli says the new medical space is badly needed, not only for today’s modern equipment, but for patients as well.

“Our capacity generally runs above 95 percent, hospitals like to be at 85 or below for efficiency purposes, so we need those extra spaces,” said Chicarelli.

One of the big questions surrounding the project is still cost. UNM says it’s looking to spend a maximum of $385 million for construction on the project.

The hospital is aiming to start construction on the first phase of the project, the new parking garage, by 2021. Crews are expected to demolish the old parking garage and astronomy building, then begin construction on the new tower.