‘Almost halfway there:’ Riverside Smithfield Hospital exterior taking shape

Published 6:03 pm Friday, June 7, 2024

At the end of February, the Riverside Smithfield Hospital construction site consisted of dirt, gravel and the first few steel beams forming the skeleton of the planned 50-bed facility.

In just under three months, the nearly 30-acre site has seen a rapid transformation. Bricks have been added to the exterior of the L-Shaped hospital’s east wing where its main visitor entrance will be located. A single-story utility wing that will house the hospital’s backup generators and other mechanical components is now framed out in concrete walls, and the first layer of asphalt has been poured for the visitor parking lot.

Turn lanes off Benns Grant Boulevard, the access road serving the hospital and the adjacent 776-home Benn’s Grant housing development, have been cut and framed with concrete curbs and gutters, but aren’t yet paved.

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Brasfield & Gorrie LLC, the Birmingham, Alabama-based contractor overseeing the work, has taken a three-phase approach to the hospital’s construction, which is why some areas are more finished than others.

“There’s a phase we’re calling the east side … where you can begin to see the exterior of the building taking place, and then we have the west side where our main patients will be,” said architect and senior project manager Russell Parrish, who gave The Smithfield Times a tour of the site on June 5.

The Times meets with Riverside officials quarterly to provide updates on the construction.

“We’ve been working east to west and we’ll continue to do so,” Parrish said.

Several of the hospital’s interior corridors have been framed out in steel and are awaiting drywall. Some areas housing computer infrastructure have already received drywall.

“Those are some of the items we need to have in place first so we can get other parts of the hospital up and running,” Parrish said.

The next milestone will come June 13 when Riverside hosts a beam-signing ceremony. Area elected and appointed officials and Riverside employees will be invited to sign their names to the final steel beam, which will be hoisted by crane into place that same day.

There are presently two cranes on site, one for steel and the other for precast brick and concrete wall panels that arrive by flatbed trailer.

“The brick is actually embedded into the precast concrete,” Parrish said. “They’re being made off site up in Woodbridge and then shipped to the site in panels, and so we put a panel in at a time.”

Exterior walls are on schedule to be in place on all wings by the end of July.

“It will look like it’s starting to really come together fast, but there’s a lot to do after that,” Parrish said.

Once the exterior work is complete, the focus will shift in late July to installing the hospital’s elevators. There will be two visitor elevators and three for staff, Parrish said. One of the three staff elevators will go all the way up to the fourth floor, which is a mechanical floor. Patient rooms will be located on the second and third floors.

The hospital is being designed with a third visitor elevator shaft “so if we expand, or when we expand, we’ll be ready for it,” Parrish said.

Currently, the focus is on erecting framing for interior walls in the hospital’s emergency department, cafeteria, administrative offices, medical imaging areas and operating rooms, and spraying the beams with fireproof insulation. To meet fire codes, the hospital is required to have beams with a two-hour fire rating, Parrish said.

Concurrently, crews have begun installing a water line that will connect to Isle of Wight County’s main on Benns Church Boulevard, and laying the foundation for a detached medical office building adjacent to the hospital. The one-story, 27,000-square-foot Jamison-Longford office building, which is partially funded with a donation from former Smithfield Foods Chairman Joseph Luter III and his wife, Karin, will be named for Dr. Bernard Jamison and the late Dr. Desmond Longford at Luter III’s request. The two longtime Smithfield physicians helped establish the Western Tidewater Free Clinic in Suffolk in 2006.

The building will house outpatient physical therapy and specialist services such as gastroenterology, orthopedics, urology and cardiology, according to Riverside Smithfield Hospital President Jessica Macalino.

While the office building isn’t as far along as the hospital, it’s slated to open a year ahead of the hospital in early 2025.

Riverside “plans on having substantial completion from the contractor” at the hospital by August or September 2025 though the facility isn’t slated to open until early 2026, Parrish said.

“We’re almost halfway there,” Macalino said.

There were more than 200 subcontractors working at the site the final week of May and eventually, there could be up to 400, Parrish said.

Macalino has been visiting the site regularly, working out of a temporary trailer on the site from which she’s conducted interviews to hire hospital staff. To date she’s held interviews for the hospital’s chief medical officer, chief nursing officer and facilities director.

Macalino expects to hire 150 to 200 employees across clinical and non-clinical roles, all of which are scheduled to be filled by the fourth quarter of 2025.