The former Veterans Affairs clinic that Central Health is remodeling to serve low-income patients in Austin is a bigger, more ambitious project than originally conceived — and so is the price tag, now estimated at $11.7 million.
When Central Health officials issued a form of debt called “certificates of obligation” in 2011 to cover the $8 million cost of buying the building from the VA, they said another $2 million in certificates would be issued for renovations. But that amount was not meant to represent the total cost of remodeling, said Christie Garbe, vice president for planning and communications.
“We estimated that there would be at least $2 million dollars needed for renovations, but did not have a total cost estimate worked up at that time,” Garbe wrote in an email Friday. “In fact, we did not even take possession of the building until a few months ago.”
Since 2011, Central Health has developed plans for more team-based, coordinated health care delivery using the 67,577-square-foot clinic at 2901 Montopolis. Students who will attend the University of Texas Dell Medical School opening in Austin in 2016, as well as newly minted doctors, will train there, Central Health officials said.
In addition, the new Southeast Health & Wellness Center will provide patients with access to a broad array of health services, including primary care, specialty care, behavioral health care, dental care, radiology, laboratory and pharmacy, Central Health officials said. Various wellness services also are being considered, such as health screenings, exercise classes, a cafe, sales of produce, a community garden, nutritional counseling and support groups.
Central Health also expects to have space in the clinic for other organizations, such as WIC, the Women, Infants and Children food program.
“As we talked to the neighborhood and considered what we wanted to do, we reached the conclusion that we needed more renovations and more changes to the existing building than we thought,” board member Clarke Heidrick said. “It’s going to cost more, and I think it’s going to be a great facility. I think we will get the value out of it.”
As the programming at the clinic evolved, what was a plan to remodel the existing space has morphed into a major overhaul that could ultimately result in gutting the building before the clinic opens in fall 2014, Central Health officials said.
On Wednesday, the Central Health board approved hiring Bartlett Cocke General Contractors, which has an Austin office, for $659,350 to manage construction and hire subcontractors. That firm will work with the architectural and engineering firm O’Connell Robertson, which has offices in Austin and San Antonio.
Colorado-based Boulder Associates Architects received a contract from Central Health in February not to exceed $213,800 to design the space.