Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

VA Clinic Closer to Becoming Reality; Construction on the Expanded Facility Ought to Start Early Next Year

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

VA Clinic Closer to Becoming Reality; Construction on the Expanded Facility Ought to Start Early Next Year

Article excerpt

Byline: TIMOTHY J. GIBBONS

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has selected a contractor to build an outpatient clinic in Jacksonville, taking the final step in a project that's been in the works more than a decade.

"It'll be a substantial improvement, not only in the number of patients we can see but in the quality of the facility," Nick Ross, executive assistant to the director of the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System, said about the clinic.

The winning contractor will be announced this month, said George Szwarcman, the VA's director of real property services, after the decision goes through internal review.

Veterans Affairs put the project out for bid in February, with close to 60 vendors expressing interest, including a handful of local players such as The Haskell Co., Florida East Coast Industries and Signet Development.

The new facility is expected to be more than 100,000 square feet, with 89,468 feet of usable space and almost 500 parking spots required in the contract.

Construction should start in early 2011, said Christine Richard, a realty specialist with the department, and take about 18 months.

The new clinic will be built on a site on Jefferson Street near to the existing clinic downtown. The VA has an option on the land, which is now owned by Shands Jacksonville.

In coming months the land will be sold to the winning bidder, who will build the clinic and lease it to Veterans Affairs for at least 20 years. The department would not release a cost estimate for the project prior to announcing the winning bidder.

A summer 2012 opening is far later than anyone anticipated when work began nearly a decade ago. In 2001 officials projected a 2003 opening.

That was before the winning bidder on an earlier version of the project died before signing a contract. It also was before plans for the clinic expanded, requiring more land to be bought. Before fluctuations in the economy made negotiations drag on. …

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