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New hospital seeks pre-approval from Florence Planning Commission

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FLORENCE, Ala. – The Florence Planning Commission met Tuesday evening to discuss the future of a new hospital in the city.

It’s hard to imagine, but a massive concrete slab was once home to Brandon School and abandoned driveways led to countless homes.  Thirty acres of property have been cleared along Veterans Drive in Florence to make way for a new 280-bed hospital.

“We are just thrilled that now we can start seeing some progress and the community will start seeing some progress,” said Tom Whetstone, spokesman for RegionalCare Hospital Group. “We’re excited about what it’s going to look like as you cross the Singing River Bridge.”

The first of many meetings with the Florence Planning Commission is to get preliminary site plan approval.

RegionalCare can then move forward with engineering plans for the $250-million hospital project.

Shoals economists say the impact of building a new hospital in Lauderdale County could exceed $1 billion.

“Everything that is associated with it, all the subsidiaries, it will have a huge impact on this area especially over the next three years,” said Whetstone.

Assuming the Florence Planning Commission approves future requests and the city council gives final zoning approval, crews could break ground on the site in November.

RegionalCare believes it will take between 24 and 30 months for construction to be completed. They hope to have the facility operational by February of 2019.

The next major discussion point is what to do with ECM Hospital once it’s vacated.  That’s a question the city of Florence and Lauderdale County Commission must answer very soon.