U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D–Va., is urging a Senate committee to green-light the last congressional approval needed to get Veterans Administration outpatient clinics up and running in Fredericksburg and Hampton Roads.
He sent a letter Monday to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works asking that the leasing prospectuses for them be brought up for approval when Congress returns in September. Both prospectuses received the Office of Management and Budget’s nod earlier this month, and must now get the OK from both the Senate EPW Committee and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
“These clinics are essential for veterans in the Commonwealth who face long wait times due to insufficient capacity at existing VA medical facilities and a fast-growing veteran population,” Warner wrote. “The facilities in Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg will enable the VA to expand primary care, mental health and specialty care services, among other services to our veterans.”
In addition, the Fredericksburg clinic will focus on reducing veteran homelessness, providing women’s health services, offering telehealth services and providing training opportunities for Virginia Commonwealth University medical students and residents. It will include a fully staffed compensation and pension department, and provide space for the Department of Defense so it can have access to VA ancillary and diagnostic services and some specialty care, according to the VA’s lease prospectus.
Congress approved leases for 28 Veterans Affairs facilities around the country, including two in Virginia, in 2017. The VA passed off procurement authority for six of the projects, including the Hampton Roads clinic, to the General Services Administration while the new outpatient clinic in Fredericksburg remained under the purview of the VA.
It began advertising in December 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. Fredericksburg’s City Council rezoned the 90-acre Hylton Tract and began pursuing options for building a road through it in hopes of attracting the project. Stafford and Spotsylvania counties have possible sites as well.
Then progress on the projects apparently stalled.
Warner eventually became frustrated by what he’s called “the glacial pace” of the two proposed veterans’ health care projects in Virginia, and fired off a letter last month to the heads of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the GSA 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.
The OMB signed off on the Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg clinics on July 30 and Aug. 6, respectively.
“As of now, their timelines have the two facilities being finished in the fall of 2023, approximately six years after the leases were approved by Congress,” Warner wrote in Monday’s letter to John Barrasso, the EPW committee’s chairman, and Thomas Carper, its ranking minority member. “I ask that under your leadership, your committee do everything possible to keep the process moving by reviewing and approving these prospectuses as soon as possible.”
The VA will lease the new outpatient clinic from whoever builds it for a maximum of 20 years. The lease prospectus calls for a maximum of nearly 493,000 square feet of space, of which a maximum of 364,831 would be what it terms “net usable square feet,” along with 2,600 parking spaces.
The new clinic would 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.
The lease with HTP Realty LLC is for approximately 20,000 square feet of space in the building, which will be renovated. The work is expected to be completed in time for the outpatient clinic to open in spring 2021, which is when the lease for one of the community-based outpatient clinics expires.
The Spotsylvania County developer pursued that project after hearing the VA wanted to build another community-based outpatient clinic in the area around the same time it advertised seeking “expressions of interest” for the larger outpatient clinic space, said Chris Waller, senior vice president for leasing for the Vakos Cos.