City provides update on Veterans Investment Zone
The new Veterans Administration Outpatient Clinic was the backdrop for the second Veterans Investment Zone Forum, an opportunity for the city to showcase what officials hope will one day be a booming corridor of economic development.
It was a year to the day since last year’s forum when the Veterans Investment Zone, or VIZ, was unveiled. And though there hasn’t been a lot of movement, new Economic Development Director Dana Brunett said once the clinic actually opens, development is sure to follow.
The clinic is set to open in late spring, early summer of next year.
“People want to see the goods, they want to see the traffic coming in and out of the facility,” Brunett said. “They want to make sure it’s as advertised.”
Some 220,000 square feet of state-of-the-art outpatient care is how the facility is being advertised and it’s expected to serve thousands of veterans in not only Lee County, but the region.
The current Fort Myers VA outpatient clinic will eventually shut its doors in favor of the new facility.
VA Clinic Associate Chief of Staff, Dr. Ajay Dhawan, said staff members are already in training at the Fort Myers facility and will be ready to hit the ground running when the doors are finally opened.
“We have all the capabilities to provide 21st Century health care in this building,” Dhawan said.
Two large scale, mixed use projects are already being eyed for the VIZ.
Patriot Plaza, at the corner of Corbett and Pine Island Roads, will have hotel, retail and medical components, according to Carlos Acosta from Grubb and Ellis.
A convenience store and gas station, a fast food or full service restaurant and “service type businesses” also are being eyed for Patriot Plaza.
“We have a lot of opportunities for local businesses to provide those services to the area,” Acosta said.
North American Properties has 118 acres that surround the new VA Clinic, and, according to Shawn McIntyre, is being proposed as a Health Park style campus with medical, office, hotel and apartment components.
“When the VA placed this facility here it became the game changer for Cape Coral,” McIntyre said.
At least one veteran was disappointed with the VIZ forum on Wednesday because he learned next to nothing about the actual facility.
Ike Zeitler traveled from Fort Myers to get a look at the new clinic and he was expecting a tour, if not a rundown of the services that would be available to him.
Zeitler often has to travel to Bay Pines, the VA facility in St. Petersburg, for some services. He walked away from the forum with no information that benefitted him.
“This was a sales pitch for Grubb and Ellis. I was mislead into coming over here,” Zeitler said. “I thought I was going to get an idea of what they offer on the inside.”