Erlanger breaks ground on new children's hospital

At Tuesday's groundbreaking (from left) were Bruce Komiske, Erlanger's vice president of new hospital design and construction, Julie Taylor, Erlanger's Chief Development Officer and President of the Erlanger Health Systems Foundations, and Don Mueller, CEO of Erlanger Children's Hospital.

Hundreds of people came to a Tuesday morning groundbreaking ceremony for the new Erlanger Children's Hospital outpatient building.

The $40 million, three-story building on the corner of Third and Palmetto streets is scheduled to open in 18 months and will feature donated, Chattanooga-centric, kid-friendly touches such as an 1891 steam locomotive out front, hang gliders from Lookout Mountain inside and a tow truck on the third floor - since Chattanooga was the birthplace of the towing industry.

Financial donations from some 4,500 people ranging from an anonymous $4 million donor to paycheck deductions from hospital employees have raised $20.5 million.

The hospital 2015 pitched in another $11.5 million from bonds it refinanced in 2015, which means a total of $32 million has been raised to date and $8 million is still needed.

Fundraising on this level is new for the public hospital.

"There was no culture of philanthropy at Erlanger," said Alan Kohrt, the children's hospital's chief medical officer, who praised Julie Taylor, the president of the hospital's foundation, for her efforts.

The children's hospital should be the catalyst for new residential and retail development on Third and Fourth streets, said Kim White, CEO of the River City Company, which is working on a plan to revitalize the area as Chattanooga's "health and wellness corridor."