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Hospital readies for expansion

LAWRENCEVILLE - General contractors in charge of a Gwinnett Medical Center expansion say preparation for the new addition is under way.

Atlanta-based R.J. Griffin and Co. have set up temporary offices at the hospital and have begun preliminary work to ready for the 175,000-square-foot, six-story, 155-bed vertical tower that will top the medical center's existing support services building.

The new tower will house a surgical and surgical intensive care unit, progressive care, intensive care, neuroscience, spine center, orthopedics and a joint replacement center.

The expansion to and remodel of the existing building will affect the ground, first and second floors, with renovations to the main entrance and lobby, construction of a new chapel, escalators and an enlarged dining area in the support services building plus a Starbucks coffee shop.

Outdoor seating and a healing garden complete the new construction. Renovations to the patient registration, cardiac rehabilitation, dialysis and gift shop areas are also planned.

Neil Meyer, a project manager for the build, said most of the construction, including moving in a crane, will begin toward the end of May or beginning of June.

Meyer said the medical center is one the company's more difficult projects due to the vertical construction and the work on the existing, functioning building.

"We'll be putting up safety netting around the existing structure to keep debris from falling and a temporary bridge will need to be constructed so people can still get in and out of the building," Meyer said. "There are several safety precautions we have to take."

R.J. Griffin and Co. has constructed and remodeled more than 700,000 square feet - nearly $121 million worth of work - for the hospital system since 1990, including the construction of the existing hospital.

Although the job may prove more difficult than others, Meyer said the existing building was built to withstand the added weight and new construction.

"We built the original building and it was designed for a vertical expansion and to hold added floors," Meyer said.

Completion of the $61 million add-on and renovation is projected for mid-2009.