Administrators at the Omaha VA Medical Center are closing down some parking spots Monday to make room for construction of a new ambulatory care clinic.
The construction is slated to begin in a few weeks.
Parking for veterans and visitors at the Woolworth Avenue campus will drop from 540 spaces to about 500, said Steve Solsky, administrative officer for the associate director of the VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System. Employees will lose about 300 of their 727 on-site parking slots.
They are making up for the lost spaces by adding a remote parking lot, with 325 spaces, just west of Saddle Creek Road between Leavenworth and Farnam Streets. The lot will be open to veterans and employees, and a free shuttle bus will run from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
In addition, Solsky said, the VA plans to lease 99 spaces for employees within walking distance of the hospital by mid-April. The exact location hasn’t yet been determined.
A carpooling lot also is being added at Grace University, which is closing in May.
“We have more parking available than we’ve ever had before,” said Solsky, whose duties include leadership of the hospital’s parking committee.
The parking upheaval is necessary to allow for construction of the new $85 million outpatient clinic. That project is being built through a public-private partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs and Heritage Services, an Omaha nonprofit that has led the development of such projects as the Holland Center for the Performing Arts, TD Ameritrade Park, the CenturyLink Center and Baxter Arena.
The VA is contributing $56 million that had been set aside years ago for the design of a replacement VA hospital. That project foundered after cost overruns. Midlands lawmakers championed the public-private partnership for the smaller project.
The new ambulatory care clinic will measure 160,000 square feet and include space for ambulatory surgery, as well as clinical care, a lobby, police service, radiology and reception spaces. It will sit just northeast of the existing building, occupying about one-third of the existing veterans and employee parking area.
Parking has long been difficult at the facility, and the loss of so many spaces has caused anxiety for employees . Solsky said a two-week trial in March of the new parking setup and shuttle service has reduced concerns.
“The feedback we got was unanimously in favor,” he said. “In the building, you felt the anxiety just shrink.”
Neither the VA nor Heritage has yet announced a date for groundbreaking. Then-Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said at a congressional hearing a few weeks ago that construction would begin in May. The facility is expected to open in 2020, Solsky said, and plans are still being developed to add a parking garage at the site.