$165M Grady expansion would upgrade Ponce HIV/AIDS facility
On July 7, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office released the cost to install the rainbow crosswalks at the intersection of 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue, as misperceptions continued to spread about how the project is funded.
“The initial cost to install the crosswalk is approximately $196,000,” Reed’s Deputy Press Secretary Jewanna Gaither told Georgia Voice via email. “The life expectancy of the crosswalk is 10 years. Our contractor will make any necessary repairs, including normal wear and tear updates, as part of the warranty for the first year at no charge. The Department of Public Works will be responsible for pressure washing the crosswalk as needed.”
The project is publicly funded, unlike the temporary rainbow crosswalks installed during Atlanta Pride in October 2015. That project was spearheaded by gay Atlanta man (and, later, reality TV figure) Robert Sepulveda Jr. and garnered over $44,000 in donations, which raised the ire of many in the community who felt people should have donated their money to other local LGBT causes. At the time, city officials said safety concerns kept them from making the project permanent.
The installation of this year’s permanent rainbow sidewalks began at 5 a.m. July 1 and finished ahead of schedule the next day, in time for runners in the annual Peachtree Road Race to dash across the intersection in the historically LGBT part of town.
Grady Health Systems is seeking $165 million to expand its main downtown facility and its Midtown HIV/AIDS facility according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The proposal calls for construction of a seven-story surgical services center across the street from the main facility, and the Ponce de Leon Center, which treats more than 5,000 people living with HIV annually, would be expanded and modernized.
If all goes to plan, two more floors will be built out at the Ponce center and the building will be updated – something that hasn’t occurred there since treatment models for HIV/AIDS changed. The moves would be crucial as Atlanta is at the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, being fifth among metro areas in new HIV cases and with over 30,000 people living with HIV.
No construction plans exist, but Grady Health Foundation President Renay Blu- menthal told the AJC that they expect community support.
“We have the land. We have a vision. We have a plan in the broad sense of the word,” she said. “The next step is monetizing it. Can we make a public-private partnership a reality?”
Two funding sources would be Fulton and DeKalb counties, which contribute funds for Grady’s operating costs but haven’t given money for capital improvements in 25 years, according to Blumenthal. The AJC reports that Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves, a mayoral candidate, supports the plan, but that DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond had no comment. The rest of the funding would come from private donors.
The move would allow Grady Hospital to add 52 beds, and the new surgical services center would add six operating rooms plus dedicated rooms for gastrointestinal procedures, an outpatient imaging center and a relocated cancer center. Overall, the project would increase clinic capacity by 45 percent and operating room volume by 25 percent. There are also plans to build a Grady-funded $38.3 million parking deck with 660 spaces for the new facility.
After funding and permits are secured, construction is expected to take between 2.5 and three years.