Hospitals share 'Chestnut Ridge' vision
by Jeff Eason
Although the state's Certificate of Need for the new Blowing Rock healthcare facility is not yet finalized, and ground has yet to be broken on the 68-acre site near the Blue Ridge Parkway, things are getting close.
Approximately 120 people attended a project update meeting for the new healthcare facility at the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum on Wednesday. Presented by Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, the meeting lasted about 90 minutes and covered a wide range of topics, including the facility's official name.
"The new complex will be called Appalachian Place at Chestnut Ridge, Center for Healthy Living and Rehabilitation," said Richard Sparks, CEO of ARHS. "We've been calling it Chestnut Ridge for short."
According to the update, Chestnut Ridge will be a 112-bed state-of-the-art, post-acute facility that will replace the current Blowing Rock Hospital. It facility will be approximately 83,350 square feet and will be located on recently purchased property between U.S. 321 and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The Town of Blowing Rock annexed the first 43-acre parcel purchased by ARHS last year and is in the process of annexing the 24.8-acre parcel purchased by AHRS earlier this year. The satellite annexation by the two will allow the new facility to utilize Blowing Rock's water and sewer services.
According to ARHS, the total cost of constructing the facility will be approximately $20 million.
"We have already raised $4.1 million for the Blowing Rock project in our current capital campaign fundraising goal of $7 million," Sparks said. "We also have a commitment from the Cannon family for an additional $1.5 million. That said, I am moving the initial fundraising goal to $10 million."
ARHS also hopes to gain financing for the project by selling the current Blowing Rock Hospital property. The hospital sits atop a hill on Chestnut Drive in downtown Blowing Rock, a parcel of land that could be converted into prime commercial or residential property.
Sparks also stated that fundraising efforts will also include a wide variety of naming opportunities for the buildings and clinics at Chestnut Ridge.
According to the update report, site preparation for Chestnut Ridge will begin later this year with construction to begin by spring of 2013. Completion of the facility is anticipated by ARHS for the fall of 2014.
Jim Fleming, CEO of Well-Spring Retirement Community, located in Greensboro, spoke about his company's current study to determine the viability of partnering with ARHS on the new site.
"Our retirement community would be modeled after what we are doing in Greensboro, with a mind to the smaller population base in the High Country," Fleming said. "We're going to grow. I went to ASU, and I've seen how it has grown since I graduated. All of this area is going to grow in a similar fashion.
"University settings are prime retirement settings, and it is high time we took advantage of it."
Fleming noted that if Well-Spring goes forward with its retirement community project, it will invest $50 million into the project.
The Chestnut Ridge and Well-Spring facilities combined will provide 200-plus full-time jobs for the High Country, not to mention the construction-related jobs that will be available before the opening of the facilities.
Sparks commented on how ARHS looks forward to partnering with Well-Spring, the ASU College of Health Services and the Town of Blowing Rock.
The Town of Blowing Rock has been extremely supportive of this project, said Sparks. In addition to the annexation process, the Town has aided us in submitting grants to obtain utilities and in negotiating with the North Carolina Department of Transportation regarding access road construction.
According to Sparks, ASU's College of Health Sciences will use the facility as a site for the training of health care professionals and will also conduct research at the site into issues pertaining to the needs and care of an aging population.
"What is going to happen is that methods of healthcare in this country are going to change," Sparks said. "Healthcare providers, doctors and nurses are going to be paid based on the health of the community, not how many times we can run patients through scanners. The incentives have been flipped, and now we want to keep you as healthy as possible.
"We began this journey years ago with things such as the Wellness Center. Our vision statement says that a better quality of life and healthier individuals are the keys for our success."