Rick Wagner • Jun 21, 2008 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — The $100 million Project Platinum expansion and overhaul of Holston Valley Medical Center continues on course and will be substantially complete by the end of 2009, according to Wellmont Health System officials.

And nearby, a $30 million Holston Medical Group office building is on track to be completed this fall.

Construction of the Holston Valley D Tower is under way and should be completed by December 2009, said Holston Valley President and Chief Executive Officer Blaine Douglas.

“Everything is still on track,” Douglas said of D Tower, which includes an emergency department expansion and additional intensive care unit rooms. Project Platinum will add 20 ICU beds and 16 step-down beds, but the hospital’s regular bed count is to remain at 505, Douglas said.

The mechanical facility needed to serve D Tower is about 98 percent done, including a 1,500-ton chiller unit, said Jim Moore, vice president of facilities for Wellmont.

Before that, a $10 million parking garage not part of Project Platinum was completed.

Douglas said stop signs in front of the garage — designed to allow pedestrian traffic from the garage — have been in place for six months, with more recent stop signs painted on Ravine as an added reminder.

“We have a lot of people come across that street, and we have a lot of people who don’t see that stop sign,” Douglas said.

The hospital provides free golf cart rides from the parking garage to the emergency department and main entrances.

But Douglas said safety concerns are driving plans to install a pedestrian foot bridge/covered walkway from the parking lot across to the hospital.

Another new idea under consideration is to move the radiation and oncology operations from the main campus to the 111 Medical Office Building in the Eastman Holston Valley Outpatient Center campus in the old Kings-Giant Plaza on Stone Drive.

Also on that campus, Holston Medical Group plans to have its new $30 million HMG Medical Plaza occupied by October.

“We’re looking at an occupancy date in October,” HMG Executive Director Craig Kilgore said. “It could be completed in September.”

Kilgore said the six-story, 265,000-square-foot building will house HMG physicians offices, HMG’s physical therapy and rehabilitation center, a financial institution, probably a food court, and offices for HMG’s Health U programs: Lose It For Good weight loss and Kick It For Good tobacco use cessation.

The building has integrated technology in its design, including provisions for HMG’s electronic medical records program.

In addition, Kilgore and Wellmont spokesman Brad Lifford said Wellmont has two smaller spaces leased on the first and second floors for pharmacy and administrative offices for human resources. They said Wellmont will take the entire sixth floor — which for now is a shell area — leased for an unspecified use.

Wellmont is also considering putting a medical office building near the Gibson Mill roundabout, Moore and Douglas said. Parking along the entrance road will serve current and future development on the outpatient campus.

As for costs, Wellmont and HMG officials both said construction materials have increased.

Kilgore said construction costs have risen slightly because of higher steel prices and higher-than-expected mechanical and electrical components.

“We have been affected some by the price of steel,” Douglas said of construction costs, while Moore said they also have been affected by increases in copper and concrete.

Of the $100 million for Project Platinum, the mechanical building cost about $3.4 million, while the D Tower is to cost about $68 million. The remainder of the money is to go toward land purchasing, landscaping, the road project and other expenses, Moore said.

Moore said other renovations going on inside the hospital are part of ongoing maintenance, not Project Platinum.

“We’re doing a lot of exterior upgrades to the facility’s facade, the whole envelope visible from Ravine,” Moore said.

The landscaping and stonework being put in there will match work yet to be done elsewhere on the Holston Valley campus and leading out along a new access road going from the campus to the planned roundabout at Gibson Mill Road.

The city will take possession of the Wellmont-built road after it is completed, but Wellmont will retain landscaping duties along the road and will work with the city on landscaping on Gibson Mill from the roundabout north to Stone Drive, Moore said.

Moore cited “unprecedented cooperation and communications” with city officials as helping the road projects along.

The yet-to-be-named road off the roundabout is par to what Douglas called the “grand entrance” for Holston Valley.

“We’re actually bidding it with the city but with a separate contract,” Moore said of the access road and the Gibson Mill Road realignment and Stone Drive intersection improvements.

“We’re trying to remove the traffic from the neighborhood,” Douglas said of shifting the main entrance from Ravine Drive to the new entrance.

Michael Thompson, city traffic engineer, said the plan is to bid out phase one of the road projects, from the old Boys and Girls Club site back toward Holston Valley, in August after advertising the project in July. The projects should start in September and take about a year.

The northern end of Ravine toward Stone Drive will end with a cul-de-sac just short of the Holston Valley campus, although traffic from that area can use Holston Valley Drive to access the hospital.

Holston Valley Drive is the next road on the right past Ravine as traffic continues from Clinchfield toward Stone Drive.

And traffic from the east end of town still can enter on that end of Ravine Street, toward Watauga Street.

“Traffic is going to be more focused on people who are coming to the hospital,” Moore said.

Phase two, including the realignment of Gibson Mill Road and the roundabout, should be completed within a year or less of the completion of phase one, Thompson said.

That will require the city to acquire the Intimate Treasures property on the north of Stone Drive and the property that once was home to a golf cart business just south of Stone Drive, across Gibson Mill Road from Slemp Motors, 109 E. Stone Drive.

In a decade, Moore and Douglas said they believe Wellmont, city and HMG officials will look back and see that Project Platinum and the related projects were well planned and will serve the hospital and community well for decades to come.

“Health care is changing all the time,” Douglas said.

“You have to think about the future,” Douglas added. “The other thing this project is about is committing to remain in the middle of Kingsport.”

For more information go to www.wellmont.org and www.holstonmedicalgroup.com.

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