Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta unveiled Nov. 16 renderings and plans for its campus at the North Druids Hills Road and I-85 interchange that is slated to be completed by 2026 if given the go-ahead next month by the city of Brookhaven. The plans include a $1.3 billion hospital, the Center for Advanced Pediatrics now under construction, support buildings and more than 20 acres of green space.
The plans also call for CHOA committing $40 million toward traffic improvements around the campus as it is built out over the next nine years, including funding going toward a redesign of the I-85 interchange.
The renderings and plans for the site were presented to some 75 residents living near the CHOA campus at a community meeting held at the Thalia N. Carlos Hellenic Community Center on Clairmont Road.
Chris Chelette, vice president of Planning, Design and Construction for CHOA, said he and others would like to see the interchange replaced and are “committing the dollars to take the first step.” Their funding is tied to a local match, he added. Local match funding can come from city, county, state and federal funds.
Chelette did say CHOA would like to see a diverging diamond at the interchange.
An attendee, Sonny Chaffin, sparred with Chelette during a small-group Q&A session following the 45-minute presentation and said CHOA needed to “apologize” to the surrounding community because he believes nothing they can do will help alleviate the area’s notorious traffic.
While Chelette said he would say he was sorry to Chaffin, he disagreed and said CHOA is serving as a “catalyst” for traffic improvements that have needed to be done for years.
CHOA spokesperson Brian Brodrick added, “We certainly don’t think we have anything to apologize for and we will continue to work with the community.”
Before any dirt can be turned, though, CHOA must first receive the nod from the city of Brookhaven to annex and rezone some 11 acres along the I-85 Northeast Expressway to make way for an 8-story office building and 7-story parking deck. This “support” building will replace the office complex around Tullie Circle that will be torn down to make room for the new hospital.
The Brookhaven Planning Commission will consider the rezoning of the 11 acres, which now only allows for a 5-story building, at its Dec. 6 meeting. The City Council will consider the annexation and rezoning at its Dec. 12 meeting. Some variances are needed as well and will be considered by the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals on Dec. 20.
The campus will be anchored by the new $1.3 billion hospital with 446 beds in two patient towers, an attached medical office building and a consolidated AFLAC Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. The height of the hospital will be between 16-19 stories. A 19-story hotel was at the site and demolished in 2014 after CHOA bought it.
“By building vertically, we achieve two important goals: preservation of green and open space and creating proximity and efficiency for our medical staff. Both of these are vital to improving outcomes,” Brodrick said.
The new hospital will replace CHOA’s Egleston Hospital on Clifton Road near Emory University. Hospital officials say Egleston is running out of bed space and is landlocked in an area where they say traffic is worse than the traffic at North Druid Hills and I-85 that spills onto arterial streets and into residential areas.
Plans are to plant grass and hundreds of hardwood trees that are specifically grown for urban environments to create 20 acres of green space that will include walking trails and paths for hospital patients, their families and staff. The lush environment is also part of creating “healing views” for children to see from their windows during hospital stays, said Bob Farrow, principal for HKS Architects.
CHOA is also working with the city to create a path to the Peachtree Creek Greenway via the I-85 underpass.
Additional structures planned for completion by 2026 include a central energy plant that will allow for efficient and sustainable energy on site and ancillary parking decks.