BRASELTON — Area clergy and several dignitaries, including Gov. Nathan Deal, bestowed a blessing Sunday on a South Hall field of dirt that will be a home to a 100-bed hospital opening in the spring of 2015.
"Where do some of life's most momentous, personal, heart-wrenching events occur? In hospitals," Deal told a large gathering at the 119-acre River Place campus, where the hospital will be built.
"So, therefore, I think it is altogether appropriate that we should have a blessing of these grounds."
The one-hour ceremony featured music, speakers and a responsive blessing presided by Father Eric Hill of Prince of Peace Catholic Church, Flowery Branch; the Rev. John Batusic, Chestnut Mountain Presbyterian Church, Chestnut Mountain; and Pastor Earl Pirkle, Central Baptist Church, Gainesville.
People were shuttled to the ceremony, taking place in a tent near the construction site, from Medical Plaza I along the dirt path of what will be a six-lane segment of the new Ga. 347/Friendship Road.
River Place, which will be home to Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton, also will be off Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway, which leads to Interstate 85. Plans call for a second medical office building to open in early 2015.
“Today’s ceremony wasn’t a traditional groundbreaking, like you might attend when a new manufacturing plant opens, because we saw a blessing as more fitting for a hospital, considering the work involves saving lives and making deep, emotional, personal connections," said Mary Lynn Coyle, the health system's board chairwoman.
Deal said he believes that "one of the major ingredients in the quality of life is the availability of quality health care.
"People want to be close to a good hospital. They want to know that when their children ... or they are sick or injured, they have a good hospital they can depend on and can access in a timely fashion.
"It's that proximity to a burgeoning portion of the population of this part of Georgia that is the driving force behind this new facility and will be the sustaining force behind the success of this new facility. It will indeed enhance the quality of life in Northeast Georgia."
Deal also announced that the health system is seeking gold-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design health care certification for the hospital.
"LEED is an internationally recognized building program that certifies a construction project as being “green,” or using environmentally conscious process and materials," according to a hospital press release.
The new certification was created this year "to specifically certify projects related to health care," the release states.
"There are only 12 projects across the nation currently seeking that distinction and, depending on timing, the (Braselton) project may be the first in the nation to receive the certification," according to the hospital.
“Regardless of whether the project is the first, third or fifth ... it’s still a special distinction that reinforces (the health system's) commitment to doing things not only the right way, but in an elite way,” said Anthony Williamson, vice president of Greater Braselton development.
“We are very conscious and respectful of the history, integrity and beauty of this land, with sustainability and efficiency as top priorities.”