Economic Development

Work Begins on New VA Clinic on North Side

YOUNGSTOWN – The new Youngstown Veterans Affairs Clinic will open around this time next year, providing better service to tmilitary veterans, while revitalizing the Northside neighborhood where it sits.

A ceremonial groundbreaking event took place Wednesday at the construction site at the intersection of Belmont and Francisco avenues.

At 35,300 square feet, the new building will be 40% larger than the current facility, which is one block north on Belmont.

It will also represent another victory in the decades-long effort to serve Mahoning Valley veterans.

Vietnam veteran attorney Carl Nunziato recalls the days when his hometown had no VA medical facility. The Purple Heart recipient, a double amputee, had to travel to the VA hospital near Cleveland for treatment. 

“I was a patient at [the Brecksville facility]… and I said ‘Why don’t we have a facility In Youngstown? The Mahoning Valley has over 12,000 veterans,” he said at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Attorney Carl Nunziato started the push for Youngstown’s first VA Clinic in 1988. The new clinic, set to open in October, will bear his name.

In 1988, Nunziato launched a campaign to open a Youngstown VA Clinic. When it opened in a converted bowling alley in 1993, it had 4,800 square feet,  two doctors, two nurses and a staff of five.

It got 12,000 patient visits in its first year.

The building was expanded several times over the years and now has 25,900 square feet. In 2018, it logged 45,000 patient visits, said director Carl Schneider at the groundbreaking.

The new facility, which will be named in honor of Nunziato, will better serve the Valley’s 10,500 veterans. It will have 94 employees and provide a full range of services, including primary care and mental health services, women’s health, podiatry and physical therapy.

It will be one of 13 VA clinics under the VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System, and the first new construction in the system in six years, according to Kimberly Robertson, chief of the district’s outpatient clinic network.

“We’re looking forward to providing health care to our veterans in a facility that befits their service,” said Schneider.

The new facility is being developed by Downing Construction of Cleveland. The VA has signed a 20-year lease with Downing worth $24.7 million. The building is scheduled for completion in October and should open a few weeks later.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan introduced a bill to name it in honor of Nunziato that is expected to be approved by Congress this week.

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said the new VA clinic will have a second benefit: bringing new life to a high-visibility intersection. Brown pointed out that the intersection was once a retail hub where neighborhood residents could shop and do their banking. 

“This location was a problem child of mine,” said Brown. “What are we going to do about Belmont and Francisco? How to improve this corridor? Then this came up. It will become an anchor for this neighborhood.”

Pictured: City and regional officials, developers and VA representatives were on hand for the groundbreaking for the new VA Clinic on Belmont Avenue.

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.