PEKIN — The ambulance company that serves Pekin enlarged the city’s footprint in the area’s medical industry with six shovel-turns of dirt Thursday.

A parking lot behind UnityPoint Health — Pekin had already been torn away before the ground-breaking ceremony that formally began construction of a new Advance Medical Transport ambulance facility.

With a fast building schedule ahead, AMT hopes to open the estimated $1 1/2 million, 4,500-square-foot building by September at 13th Street and Park Avenue.

“This is a great economic development project for Pekin, (which) continues to grow in the health care market,” said hospital Chief Executive Officer Bob Haley.

It’s the city’s second new health-related facility to be heralded this month. The OSF HealthCare Center, operated by OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, was christened last week. It will offer non-acute health care services at the former Big Lots building at East Court Village I.

The new AMT facility will replace the storage building adjacent to the Pekin Township Office Building downtown as local headquarters for AMT, a Peoria-based non-profit company that has provided ambulance service in Pekin for 22 years.

“We’ve just outgrown it,” said AMT spokesman Josh Bradshaw. “We needed more space,” for both the ambulance fleet assigned to Pekin and its crews, who operate on 24-hour shifts.

AMT regularly stations one ambulance each on the city’s east side and downtown, currently at the township building, with one held in reserve. The new facility, however, ties AMT closer to the hospital, which will lease the former parking lot space to the company.

AMT has operated in Pekin under long-term contracts with the city, which it pays $50,000 per year. The arrangement fills ambulance service needs that otherwise would require increased staffing and funding for the city’s Fire Department. East Peoria’s fire department, meanwhile, operates that city’s ambulance service.

Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin