VA Picks Belmont Site for New Outpatient Clinic

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Susan Krawchyk said a new outpatient clinic to serve area veterans is long overdue and she is eager to see what the new one will look like. 

Krawchyk, executive director of the Mahoning County Veterans Service Administration, reacted with anticipation to the announcement Monday that U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs had selected a site for a new clinic, to be located at 1815 Belmont Ave.

“It’ll be great for the community,” she said. 

VA announced Monday that it would sign a lease – a 20-year, $24,740,800 agreement – with Michael Downing Realty Ltd. to build and lease the new clinic, which will replace the existing clinic at 2031 Belmont Ave., just a block north of the future site. 

Michael Downing, owner of the Warrensville Heights real estate firm, said VA notified him shortly before being contacted by The Business Journal Monday that his firm had been awarded the contract.

His firm has built another VA clinic in Willoughby, he reported.

“Providing quality, accessible care for our veterans in an environment befitting of their service to our nation is essential,” said Candace Ifabiyi, VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System’s acting director, in the statement. “A new location, built to fit our needs, will allow us to provide specialized care for our veterans with dedicated teams and space, ensuring the personalized care VA is known for.”

The new location’s larger space – 35,344 square feet – will allow for use of the administration’s “patient aligned care team” model. The approach allows for patients to receive specialized care via a team consisting of a primary care provider, nurse care manager, clinical associate and administrative clerk, ensuring care is more personalized and team-based with a focus on wellness and disease prevention.

The Youngstown outpatient clinic has been at its current site – a 25,847-square-foot building – since the early 1990s and serves more than 10,500 veterans annually, according to the VA. The clinic’s operations are expected to move into the new space in October 2020. 

“A larger clinic was in dire need for many, many years,” Krawchyk said. An updated clinic will be easier to navigate than the current building, though she praised the clinic’s staff for doing a “phenomenal job” of working with what they had. “I’ll be curious and anxious to see the new facility,” she said. 

How soon construction will begin on the building depends on how soon documents can be completed and permits secured, Downing said. He anticipated demolition of a vacant building at the site to begin within 90 days. To meet the Veterans Administration deadline, construction of the new clinic will need to be under way by Jan. 1.

The company has applied for a zone change for two city lots at Francisca Avenue and Catalina Avenue, from single family residential to mixed use-community. The zone change was not required prior to approval of the contract, Downing said.

Carl Nunziato, a local attorney and a Vietnam War veteran, was surprised by the decision. He had advocated for selection of a proposal submitted by the owner of the current clinic, Dr. Bari Lateef, for a new building behind the existing site. 

When he and fellow Vietnam veteran Leo Connelly Jr. went to Cleveland to meet with Veterans Administration officials, they were never definitively told yes or no, but were told they had a good application, Nunziato said.

“It was a shock today,” he said. 

The selection was based on federal acquisition requirements for all procurements, said Kristen Parker, external affairs chief for VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System. 

“Requests for lease proposals go out, parties have an opportunity to submit their proposals, VA evaluates the proposals based on the requirements outlined in the RLP, and the proposal with the highest score is selected,” Parker said.

Pictured: The Veterans Administration will build a new outpatient clinic at 1815 Belmont Ave. It is slated to open in October 2020.

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