Work has begun on an $86 million expansion of the Omaha VA medical center.

Construction of the 157,000-square-foot ambulatory care clinic is expected to continue until summer 2020, according to a press release from the Bozell public relations firm. It will include new exam rooms, an outpatient-surgery suite and a women’s health clinic, allowing about 400 additional outpatients to visit the medical center each day, the release said.

“The state-of-the-art facility will allow us to serve more veterans and provide the type of health care services they need,” B. Don Burman, director of the VA Nebraska/Western Iowa Health Care System, said in a statement.

The new clinic is the result of a first-of-its-kind partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs and Heritage Services, a local nonprofit group that has been instrumental in the construction of such Omaha landmarks as the CenturyLink Center, the Holland Performing Arts Center and TD Ameritrade Park.

The project is rooted in a plan more than a decade old to replace the aging high-rise hospital on the medical center campus at 42nd Street and Woolworth Avenue. A 2007 study found the building, which was constructed in 1950, to be outdated and inadequate.

The VA is contributing $56 million that was set aside for a new hospital in 2011. Those plans fell apart, though, because of large cost overruns on other VA construction projects.

Former Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., floated plans for a lease-build option involving private-sector builders in 2014. His successor, Rep. Brad Ashford, D-Neb., and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., refined the public-private partnership and secured legislation to make it possible.

Heritage Services is responsible for raising the remaining $30 million.

Fundraising “is on target to get construction underway,” Sue Morris, president of Heritage Services, said in the press release.

Steve is the military affairs reporter for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @SteveLiewer. Phone: 402-444-1186.

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