BRASELTON — The Northeast Georgia Health System’s new 100-bed hospital is no longer tucked away in a grassy meadow in South Hall County.
The building is rising five stories and taking shape, with walls connecting steel beams and starting to shield workers from winter’s stiff breezes. It’s also now clearly seen by motorists on a new stretch of Ga. 347 that runs by the construction site.
Rudy Lonergan, director of facilities development, is clearly pleased with the progress. Up to 300 workers are on site every day.
“You can only imagine so much on paper,” he said, giving a tour last week of the site, which is near Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway.
Work is moving steadily along on the $187.4 million Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton, which will include a medical office building, patient wings and an emergency room. A road also will encircle the building.
The hospital is part of the Northeast Georgia Health System’s new River Place campus.
Lonergan said he expects the building’s completion by about February 2015, with the hospital open to the community by spring of that year — as has been projected all along.
“It was 119 acres of rolling woodlands and meadow,” said Anthony Williamson, health system vice president of Greater Braselton development, “and we knew, as part of this project, that we really wanted to take advantage of that.
“And that was reinforced by the community, with all the input we received from them through our (public) process.”
The health system held a series of public meetings, talking about the project and getting feedback.
“A lot of what we heard was that some of these amenities or opportunities (should) engage nature,” Williamson said.
“A walking trail concept came about as a (way) to focus on wellness ... so that it’s just not a place you come to when you’re sick, but it also becomes part of your wellness regime.”
One area on the property now being addressed is an old farm pond, which can be seen from one of the patient wings.
“We want to preserve that pond as well as enhance it ... and the quality of the water from what’s in there now,” Lonergan said.
To make improvements, including dredging, the hospital has had to go through the state Environmental Protection Division for a permit.
“We will have some improvement there, but where we might go further with it,” such as benches and maybe an overlook area, “is with a potential donor,” Williamson said.
At the Gainesville hospital, “we’ve been fortunate enough to have some philanthropy support,” he said. “We’re looking at similar opportunities on (the Braselton) campus.”
But the grounds won’t just feature asphalt parking areas and a building with rock exteriors, steel and glass.
There will be plenty of landscaping.
“Just a couple of weeks ago, we received trees and we’re starting to place those,” Lonergan said. “Right now is the prime planting season.”
The work is more visible to passers-by, now that the motorists are driving past it on Ga. 347.
Two weeks ago, the DOT opened a section of the road between Chateau Corners Drive and Ga. 211. Ga. 347 is being widened in two separate projects between Ga. 211 and McEver Road in Buford.
Work on a segment between Spout Springs Road and Ga. 211, including the Chateau Corners-Ga. 211 segment, is slated to be finished by April 12.
Two new traffic signals also are now operating in the newly opened section, one at Deaton Creek Parkway and the other at Ga. 211 and Bayberry Drive.
Lonergan said plans call for a traffic signal at the hospital entrance but not one at Medical Plaza 1, a medical office building off Ga. 347 and on the River Place campus.
At this point, the only way to travel between the hospital and Medical Plaza 1 would be via Ga. 347.
So, hospital officials are considering building a bridge that would connect the two structures, and they’re hoping to pay for it using money within total project costs.
That decision likely won’t be made for several months, Lonergan said.