The long-awaited and much-discussed construction of a new hospital in Riverview took a major step toward becoming a reality Oct. 17.
With bulldozers and front loaders pushed dirt behind them, about 100 hospital officials and guests of St. Joseph's Hospital gathered at the front of the 72-acre site on Simmons Loop Road to celebrate the groundbreaking of St. Joseph's Hospital South.
Among those in attendance were members of the project team who oversaw construction of St. Joseph's Hospital-North in Lutz, which opened in 2010.
Now that team is tackling the construction of the 325,000-square-foot hospital in Riverview.
"It's very exciting," said team member Sue Weirick. "I came in on the St. Joseph's-North project after it had already started so it's thrilling for me, personally, to be here at the groundbreaking of this hospital."
The team spent two years in preparation for yesterday's groundbreaking, reviewing architectural plans, overseeing the permitting processes, even coming up with a mitigation plan to relocate gopher tortoises on the property.
"All of the gopher tortoises now have a great new home," said Weirick.
Finally witnessing construction crews clearing the land and laying foundations is especially rewarding for the project's accounting manager, Valerie Erdelac. Erdelac lives in FishHawk Ranch and this will become the hospital closest to her community.
"Lives will be saved and healthy babies will be born here," said Erdelac. "That was our motivation when we built North and that's our motivation now."
St. Joseph's-South will be part of BayCare Health System, which now operates St. Joseph’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital and St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital, all in Tampa, St. Joseph’s Hospital-North in Lutz and South Florida Baptist Hospital in Plant City.
BayCare communications manager Lisa Patterson noted that St. Joseph's-South will be the first not-for-profit hospital in southern Hillsborough County where it will serve residents from Sun City Center, Riverview, Ruskin, Apollo Beach, Brandon, Lithia and the southeast part of Tampa.
In addition to providing south county with health care, the $225 million project will bring hundreds of new jobs the area.
Anticipating the growth in south county, the hospital group purchased the property at 6901 Simmons Loop Rd., at the corner of Big Bend Road, in 1985. Officials then requested permission from the state to build the new hospital seven years ago.
Just a half mile east of Interstate 75 and a mile west of U.S. 301, the location is easily accessible to residents, noted Patterson.
Once completed in early 2015, the area will have a full-service, acute-care hospital offering emergency care, women’s services, surgery, intensive care as well as physician offices, diagnostic imaging and laboratory services.
In addition to the four-story hospital, the project includes an 80,000-square-foot medical office building and a freestanding 40,000-square-foot physician office building, which will open in early 2013.
The hospital will include 90 private patient suites plus 22 observation rooms. The emergency center will offer 30 private rooms. The hospital also will have operating suites and an interventional cardiac cath and imaging lab.
The hospital's design will be environmentally friendly, featuring high-efficiency systems that reduce energy consumption and recycled building materials.
The main entrance to the hospital will be on Simmons Loop Road, a portion of which will be widened during the construction process. However, there also will be access from Big Bend Road to the north and Lincoln Road to the east.