Springfield Site on List of Contenders for VA Clinic

Article excerpt

Byline: Diane Dietz The Register-Guard

Marcola Meadows is the newest contender to emerge publicly in the competition for a major new Veterans Affairs clinic that will be built in Eugene or Springfield.

Graham Development of Carmel, Calif., bought the 100-acre development in north Springfield out of foreclosure recently. The developer has now made the first cut for companies vying to build the clinic, which will be leased to the VA for 20 years for about $2.2 million per year.

"We essentially are shovel ready. If we are awarded the contract we could be pushing dirt virtually immediately," said Dennis Randazzo, a Portland broker and manager of part of the Marcola project. "There's a team in place right now."

The Department of Veterans Affairs mailed out "some" letters to winning companies on Nov. 30, but Jessica Kaplan, a VA lease program manager, declined to say how many developers or sites are in the running or the projected construction costs.

"There are laws and regulations and rules about what we can and cannot tell you," she said. "We're not purposefully being coy."

The companies must respond with extensive proposals to the Department of Veterans Affairs by Jan. 18, Kaplan said. The firms will have to demonstrate their financial and technical capabilities.

Two other confirmations

Since the VA first began looking for sites in 2009, two other land owners have confirmed that their properties are under consideration.

Developer Arlie & Co. was promoting a Crescent Village site, but Arlie pulled out in September. This week, Arlie sued Umpqua Bank, blaming the bank for the loss of the deal.

Acquest Development of Buffalo, N.Y., received notice this week that it's also in the running to build the clinic on property in north Eugene that's owned by Guard Publishing Co., publisher of The Register-Guard.

"We're excited the project has finally gotten to this stage. We're really hopeful we'll be able to get the job there," said Omar Abu-Sitta, director of development for Acquest Development.

But the company faces a couple of challenges. To clear the way, the Eugene City Council has to change its light industrial zoning rules to allow a VA clinic to be built on the Chad Drive site.

In mid-November, Dennis Randazzo, representing the Marcola site, and John Musumeci, representing Crescent Village, opposed the zoning change at a planning commission hearing.

The commission is scheduled to vote on its recommendations on Dec. 12, then the City Council is slated to begin its deliberations, including a public hearing, on Jan. 17. The council is scheduled to vote Feb. 13.

"Sooner rather than later is obviously in our and the Guard's best interest," Abu-Sitta said. "Hopefully, the city makes the right decision and makes the code change."

The other complication for the Acquest Development plan is that the company and its CEO, William Huntress, are under a seven-count grand jury indictment alleging conspiracy to defraud, obstruction of justice, making false statements, concealing material facts, criminal contempt and filling a wetland in violation of the Clean Water Act, according to the U. …