Peggy Ward knew it would be a good day Wednesday, despite the morning rain, gray sky and muddy earth.
It was the day she and her partner, Marilyn Carter Tomlin, ceremoniously embarked on a project to transform 7.41 acres of pine trees and shrubs into a $5 million complex.
One hundred new jobs are expected to be created by their medical-office complex in south Augusta. It will serve as headquarters for Augusta Associates of Internal Medicine and Rheumatology, the practice of the two internal medicine physicians.
Surrounded by about 50 local dignitaries and supporters, the doctors broke ground Wednesday on their lot off Tobacco Road about a mile from Peach Orchard Road. The doctors purchased the lot in 1994.
"I have dreamed about it," said Dr. Ward, who specializes in rheumatology. "We'll get started in three to four weeks."
Dr. Ward and Dr. Carter Tomlin plan to build Richmond Center Complex in three phases. It will house a medical center, 80-room hotel and other professional offices.
The first phase, the doctors said, will house their medical practice, which now is located near University Hospital at 13th Street and Walton Way. The new medical offices will be about 2,000 square feet larger than the doctors' current offices and is slated for completion in June.
"It marks the beginning of something historical for us," Dr. Carter Tomlin said. "It's a much needed service to the county."
Local business leaders predicted more development in south Augusta. Although much of the commercial growth in the Augusta area has been toward the west, the southern end of the metropolitan area could grow if offices and industries move there, they said.
"We're going to see this area explode," predicted Jimmy Smith of the Metro Augusta Chamber of Commerce's South Richmond County Pride and Progress Committee. "We're just thrilled to see (the complex) out here."
"I remember when this was a one-lane road," said First Union vice president Yvonne Rees. She gestured to Tobacco Road. "It's a growing area."
The second phase of the complex includes the hotel, a restaurant and a 10,000-square-foot conference and banquet center. Studies show the hotel and conference center could employ more than 100 people. Construction of this phase, to begin after the medical center is finished, is scheduled for completion in early 1999.
The third phase calls for construction of office suites for doctors, lawyers, investment brokers or insurance agents. The partners expect to complete this phase by 2000.