FLOWERY BRANCH — The beam from Anthony Williamson’s laser pointer danced across a map of the planned Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton and the area beyond.
“This (hospital) is going to change this community,” said the Northeast Georgia Health System’s vice president of Greater Braselton development Tuesday.
He then referred to work ongoing to widen Ga. 347 through the South Hall area. Neighboring Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway “eventually is going to widen and we’re going to see development out there,” as well, he said.
The hospital’s big picture was just one part of Williamson’s overall update of the project at a one-hour presentation at the Hall County Library System’s Spout Springs branch.
More than 100 people packed into the library’s community room for the event. The Gainesville-based hospital system held a session Thursday in Braselton and has a third and final one set for May 21 in Dacula.
The 100-bed hospital is on track for a spring 2015 completion, with foundation work going on now at the site off the new Ga. 347/Lanier Islands Parkway.
The Ga. 347 widening will extend to Interstate 985, but the portion in front of the hospital — or between Spout Springs Road and Ga. 211 — should be finished by next April, Williamson said.
Audience members asked questions about area roads, including the fate of Thompson Mill Road, but also asked about hospital access, connectivity and services.
One person talked about concerns over ambulance sirens.
“That’s a question that’s come up a few times, as we’ve done these forums and other planning sessions,” Williamson said.
The closer they get to a hospital, ambulances “usually don’t have the sirens on and they try to be cognizant of that,” he said. “Now, if they need to get somebody through traffic, their first priority is moving that patient and getting them to the setting they need to get to.”
That led to Williamson’s comments about the evolving area, which includes development stretching to Spout Springs Road.
"We’re trying to be cognizant of the impact we’re having ... but things are going to change, and that’s part of the development,” he said.
The hospital itself is part of the 119-acre River Place campus, which now features an already-bustling medical office building.
A second, five-story medical building will be attached to the hospital, and the patient tower could grow to accommodate as many as 350 to 400 beds, depending on future need, Williamson said.
Plans call for a third medical building next to the one standing now — which is near the vast Village at Deaton Creek neighborhood — and there have been talks about connecting that area to the hospital campus via a bridge.
“When we open the hospital, we’re anticipating roughly 300 jobs,” Williamson said in talking about the project’s economic impact. “I think it may go ... in the 350 range. That’s going to grow over a few years to 500 or 600.”
That would result in about $70 million a year in worker pay.
“When you think about the incremental impact — all the physician offices, all the other businesses that are going to be opening in the area — we’re anticipating about another 800 jobs, so that’s about $100 million in employee compensation there,” Williamson said.
Denise Quinlan, a Duluth-based Realtor, said she attended the meeting because the hospital will be closer to her home in Dacula than Gwinnett Medical Center in Lawrenceville.
“I want to see what the hospital will bring, in terms of jobs and (health) care,” she said. “This should be good for the entire economy.”
So far, she’s impressed, she said.
“It seems like the project is well thought out and that they care about the neighbors and the environment,” Quinlan said.