The view of the Charlotte skyline from the fourth floor of the CaroMont Regional Medical Center-Belmont is indeed incredible – the towering spiers of downtown office buildings soaring into a blue Carolina sky.
But Chris Peek, CEO of CaroMont and the man whose vision drove the construction of a new hospital just up the slope of the Catawba River, says that view should be reversed.
“We’re not going to look at Charlotte,” he says, speaking both about the new hospital and the future he envisions for Gaston County, “they’re going to look at us.”
Peek and Richard Blackburn, Vice President of Facilities and Support Services at CaroMont, gave a quick tour of the hospital site to a Gazette reporter and photographer on a clear, dry spring afternoon when more than 300 workers were on site.
When completed in late 2023, the medical center will contain 265,000 square feet spread over five floors. This space will include 66 hospital beds, including 54 inpatient beds and a 12-bed observation unit.
The new medical center will also contain 16 emergency rooms, a labor and delivery unit, a surgical suite with two operating rooms, an OB/GYN suite and an endoscopy/bronchoscopy suite.
Also included will be a full range of imaging and diagnostic services as well as five waiting rooms and amenities including a chapel and a cafeteria.
The estimated cost of the new medical center, which can be expanded by two additional floors if needed, is estimated at around $195 million.
“It’s important that this campus be the first thing people see when they come to Gaston County from the east,” Peek said. “We want to present a statement of quality and care, and we also want to complete our four-year college (Abbaye de Belmont).”
“This health care facility can be transformational for Gaston County,” Peek continued. “And that can be part of the new positive image that we give to our neighbors and to the people who live here.”
In addition to the new medical center, a four-story, 100,000-square-foot medical office complex is also being built on the 28.1-acre medical campus. Its cost is estimated at $40 million.
Finally, a 240,000 square foot four-story parking deck is being built just west of the new medical center.
“We’re building this parking deck, not to meet the needs of these facilities initially,” Blackburn said, “but to be able to meet those needs as these facilities grow and expand.”
Plans for the new medical center were announced just before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic and its subsequent supply chain and labor disruptions had a “limited impact” on the construction effort, Peek said.
“It could impact when we see our first patient,” he said. “But we still hope that will happen at the end of 2023.”
A four-lane entrance, called CaroMont Parkway, will lead to the new campus, while the driveway immediately in front of the medical center will be named Compassion Lane.
“We are aiming for a campus that is both beautiful and functional,” Blackburn said, “much like the main Gastonia campus.”
Blackburn noted that the campus will have a critical power plant that will house at least two and possibly three generators to provide backup power.
He also explained that hospitals must have two separate supplies for electricity, water and fiber technology.
CaroMont estimates that some 16,000 patients will visit the new facility in its first year of operation, and that number is expected to increase to 30,000 by its third year of operation.
CaroMont also expects the new facility to employ at least 150 people in a variety of healthcare and support positions.
Standing on the fourth floor, overlooking the sprawling campus marked by hundreds of workers and dozens of construction vehicles, Peek said, “Those extra two floors are going to be needed in this building.”
“This community, this region, is going to grow,” he added, “and we are going to be ready for that growth.”
Bill Poteat, who overcame his fear of heights long enough to climb the open stairs to the fourth floor, can be reached at 828-448-0195 or [email protected].