Vets Affairs wants developer ideas for Lincoln campus

VA officials met with potential developers Wednesday morning and with veterans in the afternoon to provide information about the lease arrangement and new clinic.

This is a way to get a new Lincoln clinic when there is no money in the VA budget for building new clinics, VA leaders have said.

VA leaders would like a modern outpatient clinic to replace the sprawling primary care and mental health clinics that use part of the old VA hospital in Lincoln.

The VA hopes to pick a developer by fall and anticipates construction may begin in 2011, according to VA officials at the meetings.

Flexibility is key in this process, based on the information provided Wednesday.

The VA's first choice is to have a 100,000-square-foot clinic built on the campus at 70th and O streets. But the agency will also consider a clinic elsewhere, preferably along Interstate 80.

The outpatient clinic will include space for primary care and mental health care, specialty areas for services like dental, audiology, eye, urology, dermatology, orthopedics. There will also be a pharmacy and lab space, radiology capabilities and space for education services.

The VA provided a list of possible uses for the campus: multi-family residences; affordable housing; institutional; conference center; research; medical facilities; child care centers.

But the agency will consider other options, said Libby Kavoulakis, with The Metis Group, which is working on the project.

"Please be creative," she said.

Developers will have to pay some attention to the national historic preservation act and maintain the park-like atmosphere of the campus.

"This is a congested area and we'd like to keep some open space," said Kavoulakis.

The VA will ask developers to try to use as many existing buildings as they can, said Alan Hackman, an administrator with the VA in Washington, D.C.

There are eight structures on the campus, numbered as 22 buildings, most built between 1929 and 1931, according to information on the campus.

The VA has used the enhanced-use lease in about 50 projects across the country, each one different. Projects include senior housing, transitional housing, a child care center and a hospice program, Hackman said.

Lincoln will be unique because the VA is offering use of an entire large campus area, Hackman said.

Interested developers will first provide information about qualifications and finances.

This summer, developers selected by the VA will provide specific proposals.

The VA expects to negotiate with a developer on a project this fall and winter, according to a timetable presented at the meeting.

Construction will likely begin "sometime well into" 2011, Hackman said.

The VA first announced using the enhanced-use lease for the Lincoln VA campus in November 2007.

"This is not a fast timetable. We want to make sure the project is sustainable for the next 35 to 75 years," said Kavoulakis.

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