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SOMERVILLE, NJ-The board of directors of the century-old Somerset Medical Center has approved a plan to renovate and expand the facility in this Somerset County seat. While not the first time the facility has been expanded (it began as a 12-bed facility back in the late 1890′s), it’s certainly the largest project it has undertaken.

The $86 million plan calls for the renovation of 60,000 sf of existing space and the addition of a 160,000-sf, four-story structure for inpatient housing, emergency care, ambulatory surgery and cancer care. It also calls for adding more than 700 parking spaces on two decks, attached to an existing facility.

The medical center’s board intends to present the plan to several neighboring communities, including Somerville, Bridgewater and Raritan, within the next several weeks for public input. The board is also expected to put the funding process in motion, intending to apply to the New Jersey Health Care Facilities Financing Authority for tax-exempt bonds.

The board has not specified a timeline for the project, although if all the pieces fall into place, construction could start next year. A key reason cited for the expansion is the fact that according to the latest census, the Somerset/Hunterdon County region grew faster percentagewise than any other part of the state between 1900 and 2000.

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