Public feedback meetings
Here's a schedule of input sessions that Northeast Georgia Medical Center is holding on its new South Hall campus:
Tonight: Sugar Hill United Methodist Church, Buford
Jan. 24: Braselton Community Room
Jan. 25: Jackson Electric Membership Corp., Jefferson
Jan. 26: Hamilton Mill United Methodist Church, Dacula
Each meeting is set for 6-7:30 p.m. Contact: 770-219-3840
FLOWERY BRANCH — If planners base their design of the new South Hall hospital on suggestions that area residents gave Tuesday night, one thing is likely: The building won't be stodgy, cold and uninviting.
Northeast Georgia Medical Center held the first of five public forums, as part of an effort to seek community thoughts and feedback on the planned 100-bed hospital off what will be the new Ga. 347/Friendship Road.
Suggestions poured from residents who packed the community room in the Hall County Library System's Spout Springs branch off Spout Springs Road.
Residents said they'd like to see the hospital embrace the natural setting of the campus' 119 acres in the once rural but now rapidly growing southeast corner of Hall.
They talked about the hospital adding trees, flowers, shaded nature trails and reflecting pools.
Patients also should be able to see "nice views from their hospital rooms," said one resident.
"You have a beautiful tract of land," said another resident. "It would be a benefit to the community if you could preserve as much of that as possible."
Robert Chamberlain, who lives in nearby Village at Deaton Creek, a retirement community, said he would like to see the hospital campus, known as River Place, blend with Deaton Creek, which already has many natural amenities.
He also had a word of caution for those filling up the wish list, which also included valet parking and a Starbucks coffee shop.
"They can do everything we want," Chamberlain said. "They could put airplane rides in there or roller coasters, but we're going to pay for it. Don't forget that."
"As we ask these questions, it is a blue-sky type of session when we're talking about what's possible and talking about ideas," said Lora Strigens, an architect and urban planner with HGA Architects and Engineers, which is working with Northeast Georgia Health System on the project.
"At the end of the day, just as you have to evaluate what you want to spend your money on, the hospital system as well is going to evaluate what will bring the most value to you as a health care consumer."
The hospital system is holding meetings through Jan. 26, with the next one set for tonight at Sugar Hill United Methodist Church, Buford.
Tracy Vardeman, vice president of strategic planning, said in an earlier interview that the hospital's "commitment throughout this process has been to give (the public) the opportunity to provide input into the development of the ... campus.
"Our hope is to get as much participation as possible from the greater Braselton community."
She added, "What we're building and designing should be a reflection of the community. We're not trying to pick up something that was in some other community and build it in this spot."
Some concerns arose about future traffic in the area.
The hospital project's timing lines up with a Georgia Department of Transportation plans to widen Ga. 347 from Interstate 985 to Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway, skirting hospital property.
A contract is scheduled to be awarded in April and construction likely will begin this summer on the nearly 8-mile stretch. Teri Pope, DOT's spokeswoman for the Gainesville-based District, has said the first leg of that work will take place between Spout Springs Road and Old Winder Highway.
Speaking outside the meeting, Theresa Moore, who lives in the nearby Reunion subdivision, said she wonders how hospital traffic is going to affect area residents.
"Right now, it's pretty much a two-lane highway and there's not a lot of traffic," she said, referring to Thompson Mill Road, a main artery connecting Spout Springs Road and Ga. 211.
Moore said that, overall, she was generally impressed by the hospital's plans and its willingness to hear residents' input and concerns.
"I'm encouraged that the community did turn out," she said.