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Health education building grows in size and cost

The new health education and medical center has grown in size to a three-story, 95,000-square-foot building with a pricetag of $32 million — $6 million more than the ceiling the Henderson County Board of Commissioners set when they approved financing and double the original estimate.

Commissioners endorsed the preliminary drawings for Joint Health Sciences Building which will house classrooms and labs for Wingate and BRCC and a new Pardee Hospital cancer center.
"The final creation, ultimately, is a new entity," project architect Chad Roberson said as he presented drawings of the building's exterior and walked the commissioners through floor by floor detail. "It's one that is transformative. Each individual functions wonderfully on its own, however, there's a certain magic that happens when you bring all of these entities together."

The building includes a larger participation by Pardee Hospital than the original estimate, adding a cancer center and infusion therapy clinic on the ground floor. BRCC and Wingate students will attend classes in the upper two floors of the building on Sixth Avenue at Oak Street.

Commissioners have on numerous occasions praised the unprecedented five-party agreement that resulted in the cooperative venture for education and health care, and they enthusiastically endorsed the project despite its higher cost.
"While this is a large obligation for Henderson County, Pardee and Wingate, not only with that comes a lot of assets," Commissioner Larry Young said. "One of those is a state-of-the-art cancer center, we become a university town, we'll have a full fledged medical school here with the exception of doctors. We're also going to increase the size of our community college. When you weigh the assets, yeah, the obligation is large but we've got it, I think, to where this isn't going to cost the taxpayers any money."
County Manager Steve Wyatt and Finance Director Carey McLellan presented updated figures on how the construction would be financed without a tax increase. The building is expected to be completed by the summer of 2016.

The building will be U-shaped with the back facing Oak Street.

The front or the inside of the U, faces Pardee Hospital and is “transparent” with ample windows allowing natural light into the building. There will be paths along this side of the building, both private and public, and a "healing garden" with native foliage.

“Within the context of the campus, the building serves as an anchor on Pardee’s campus,” Roberson said. “The inner façade engages the campus of Pardee. The transparency of this inner façade encourages interactions.”

Ideally, the three partners will share portions of each floor, but the building has been designed with each of the three partners in mind.

The first floor will be primarily dedicated to Pardee Hospital and will house the state-of-the-art Cancer Center. The glass front of the building will allow patients in the infusion area to look into the private healing garden and enjoy natural lighting. The floor will also have a reception area, waiting area and administration offices.

Wingate University and Blue Ridge Community college will share the second and third floors, which will house labs,  classrooms and offices. A third floor balcony will look out to the second floor mezzanine and roof garden, where students can interact and relax between classes.

“The only real problem I have is a road system of getting in and out,” said Commissioner Tommy Thompson. “But other than that it’s a great and I’m all for it.”

After the initial presentation, county staff presented budget information for the capital project.

Two main funding sources will help with costs: debt service reduction money and lease payments from Wingate and Pardee.

The county will gain nearly $1.4 million because of debt retirement over the next two years. A projected lease payment of$18 a sqaure foot would generate $1.17 million.

The county's projected cost, $32 million minus an upfront payment from Pardee of $4.73 million, would require the county to borrow $27.72 million. The county projected its annual debt payment at $2.4 million.

While the capital spending could delay other capital projects in the pipeline — such as a new consolidated EMS center and renovation of Hendersonville High School —commissioners agreed it was worth it.