The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Friday that it is finally accepting lease proposals for a VA hospital that will be built in the Fredericksburg area.
“The deadline is Dec. 23 at 4 p.m., which is a pretty quick turnaround,” said Bill Freehling, Fredericksburg’s Department of Economic Development and Tourism director.
The city has been working on getting the Hylton Tract ready to be considered as a possible site since the VA began advertising in December of 2017 that it was seeking “expressions of interest” for outpatient clinic space in an area stretching from Stafford County to Spotsylvania County, mainly along the Interstate 95 corridor.
The 90-acre undeveloped tract lies east of Interstate 95 between State Route 3 and Cowan Boulevard. City Council has rezoned the property, and city staff are working with the tract’s owners on extending Gateway Boulevard through it from Cowan Boulevard to State Route 3.
“I think the groundwork that we’ve done in the past year and half ... will serve us well,” Freehling said.
Stafford and Spotsylvania counties have locations that could qualify as well.
The clinic was one of 28 leased projects that Congress authorized funding for in fiscal year 2017—the largest lease procurement the VA has ever undertaken. Then progress on the projects for both the Fredericksburg and Hampton areas stalled.
Sen. Mark Warner, D–Va., eventually became so frustrated by what he’s called “the glacial pace” of the two proposed veterans’ health care projects in Virginia that he fired off a letter to the heads of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the GSA in July demanding an expedited timeline for them. He also made multiple calls and sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget pushing the agency to swiftly review and approve the leasing prospectus in their possession.
Warner said the hospitals are essential for veterans in Virginia who face long wait times due to insufficient capacity at existing VA medical facilities and a fast-growing veteran population. The new facilities will enable the VA to expand primary care, mental health and specialty care services, among other services to veterans.
“Our veterans deserve access to top-quality medical care,” he said Friday. “After successfully pushing OMB and the congressional committees to expeditiously approve the Fredericksburg outpatient clinic prospectus, I have continued to put pressure on the Department of Veterans Affairs and the General Services Administration to get this long-promised facility up and running.
“While this announcement is an important step towards the progress of this critically needed facility, I remain committed to seeing through the completion of this project.”
The earliest the Fredericksburg facility could open would be 36 months from the date of the lease award or upon acceptance of space, whichever is later, according to the lease proposal. It is expected to bring hundreds of jobs to the area, Freehling said.
The VA will lease the new outpatient clinic from whoever builds it for a maximum of 20 years. The lease prospectus calls for a building with a maximum of 426,722 square feet of space, along with 2,600 parking spaces. The hospital will replace and consolidate the two area community-based outpatient clinics, which offer primary care services to local veterans.
One is located at 130 Executive Center Parkway near Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg. The other is on the third floor at 10401 Spotsylvania Ave., which is in the Lee’s Hill Medical Plaza. They have a combined total of 21,551 usable square feet.
The lease prospectus also allows the VA to lease interim space until the new outpatient clinic opens. It recently signed a 10-year lease with a Vakos Cos. affiliate for a third community-based outpatient clinic that will open in Vakos’ former headquarters in the Southpoint I commercial development in Massaponax.