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New South Hall road will be in place when growth comes
Construction crews work on massive scaffolding erected outside the Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton to finish the outside of the new hospital.

A 100-bed hospital rising from the ground next door to his neighborhood has Carroll Humphries excited, but the Village at Deaton Creek resident also views the development and others to come off the new Ga. 347 in South Hall County as a “mixed blessing.”

“The traffic is going to intensify and I’m sure there’ll be a lot of emergency vehicles that we’ll hear more from,” he said.

The Georgia Department of Transportation opened Ga. 347 Monday between Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway and Spout Springs Road, helping the area brace for what could be a new era of burgeoning growth in the Braselton area of South Hall. The road widens from four to six lanes at Deaton Creek and in front of Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton, which is set to open in spring 2015.

“As a (road) project is developed, GDOT looks at zoning in the area, businesses that are there already or are under construction, traffic counts and population along the project and in the area or region,” district spokeswoman Teri Pope said.

“Our goal is to upgrade the roadway so it can safely handle the traffic for 30 years so we aren’t working on the same roads over and over,” Pope said.

The Ga. 211-Spout Springs segment is part of an overall 8-mile, $38.4 million project with a completion date of Jan. 12, 2016. When the entire road is finished, motorists will be able to travel on four- and six-lane stretches of Ga. 347 between Interstate 985 and Ga. 211.

Projected average daily traffic counts for the entire corridor are 41,650 in 2015 and 89,050 in 2035.

A medical office building already is place at the hospital campus, and work is moving rapidly on the new hospital. Rudy Lonergan, the hospital’s facilities development director, said that by late July, all the exterior finishes and roof will be complete.

Development is about to start on four medical office buildings at the corner of Ga. 211 and Ga. 347, on the same side of the road as the hospital, said Karen Baston, who is connected to the project as part of Gainesville-based Sperry Van Ness/Hokayem Commercial Real Estate.

“A lot of people in the medical (field) are looking in that area,” said Baston, who specializes in the sale and leasing of office and medical property in Northeast Georgia. “It’s definitely its own emerging market, for sure.”

Even though practices will operate independently, they will interconnect and involve the hospital.

“Subspecialists need primary care doctors to refer to them and the primary care doctors need subspecialists to refer, too,” Baston said. “Some will be on campus and some will be off campus.”

But she doesn’t expect health care providers to consume the land around Ga. 347 and Ga. 211, which is a few miles from Interstate 85.

Retail, “which is back on the uptick,” also should factor into the big picture, Baston said. “And there will be some professionals that will follow. Attorneys, CPAs also will be there.”

Jennifer Dees, Braselton town manager, said portions of the town are at Ga. 347 and Ga. 211, with the town’s land-use map showing future commercial or mixed commercial and residential use.

“We are currently seeing more medical office use going through permitting than anything else,” she said.

Anthony Williamson, Northeast Georgia Health System’s vice president of greater Braselton development, said a master plan expects the hospital “to grow with the surrounding community.”

“There is ample space on our campus for future growth, which could include more medical office buildings or related health care services,” he said. “Also, the hospital itself has been designed, and additional infrastructure built, to expand to almost 500 beds ... as the population and need for services grow over time.”

For the hospital to be successful, “there must be an ample supply of physicians in the community, such that patients can receive their medical care close to home,” Williamson said.

“There is an equally important effort in place to grow the number of physicians with offices in the Braselton area across numerous specialties.”

Tim Evans, vice president of economic development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said residents should expect a domino effect, with other businesses and practices opening after the hospital takes off.

“And those people who work in the medical center will have a cafeteria, but they’ll need other places to eat,” he said. “There’ll be other things that open up as a result.”

Evans said he believes growth could ripple to Flowery Branch and I-985, which sit at the opposite end of Spout Springs Road.

“It’s only natural there’ll be growth at both ends,” he said.

Humphries, retired vice president of Athens Technical College, is bracing for what he believes will be “dramatic change” in the area.

“It’s a given that progress is going to occur,” he said. “You just have to learn to adapt and go with it.”