Work underway on new Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Chattanooga

By MIKE PARE | The Chattanooga Times/Free Press | Published: June 22, 2019

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Tribune News Service) — Work has started at the site of a long-sought-after Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Chattanooga that will more than double the size of the existing facility.

The 95,000-square-foot clinic will be built at 6401 Shallowford Road on a 17-acre tract, said Rick Baier, a principal in the development firm U.S. Federal Properties.

He said plans are to turn over the building to the VA by late 2020, with the VA then installing furniture and equipment. The VA has set a tentative opening date in spring 2021.

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., said the facility will provide the more than 20,000 veterans in Hamilton County with quality health care. Also, he said, it will meet the needs of an increasing veteran population.

"In 2014, I proudly supported legislation to provide funding for community-based outpatient clinics to bring more accessible care with lower wait-times to our nation's service members," Fleischmann said.

Construction costs for the clinic are expected to be $9.7 million, according to the VA.

The site, located near Standifer Gap Road, is adjacent to a vacant 10-acre parcel where a pair of Chattanooga developers earlier unveiled plans to build a $10 million residential project. The developers, Marcus Lyons of Oasis Residential and Pratt Home Builders, said this year they intended to build 82 garden-style rental homes.

The new VA clinic will replace the existing facility at Debra Road near Eastgate Town Center that has operated since 1985.

The clinic will provide primary care, female veteran health care, mental health, audiology, physical medicine rehabilitation, dental, imaging, and lab services.

"We're excited to bring additional capacity and a new, larger facility to Chattanooga," said Jennifer Vedral-Baron, director of the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, which provides health care services to veterans in Kentucky and Tennessee. "There is a big demand for the high-quality health care VA provides in the Chattanooga area, and we'll be happy to better meet that demand."

The VA said its model of integrated care provides a healing environment through the collaborative efforts of care teams of physicians, nurses, social workers, nutritionists, pharmacists, and whole health coaches.

Baier said the exterior of the VW clinic will be a mix of glass, stone and metal panels. The site also will hold about 506 parking spaces, he said.

Work clearing the wooded 17-acre property has begun, and his group will lease the building to the VA when it's complete. Baier said a community meeting about the project is planned for July 1.

Darren Hamrick of the Birmingham-based engineering firm Sain Inc. said the clinic project has changed from an earlier proposal approved by Chattanooga planners in November 2016.

"In the past it was a much larger tract," he said, adding that the adjacent 10 acres and the residential proposal is unrelated to the clinic. "We just happen to be neighbors."

Since the VA project has changed, it's slated to go before the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission on July 8 to lift and amend earlier conditions on the property, Hamrick said. The adjacent residential project also is to be heard that same day by the panel.

Jill Allen, chief operating officer for the entity that is currently leasing space to the existing VA clinic, said it's looking for a future user.

"We are actively seeking prospects that could utilize the facility," said Allen of Urban Story Ventures.

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