“I think it’s fantastic.”
That’s how U.S. Air Force Veteran John Margowski summed up his thoughts about the construction of a new Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Oconomowoc.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the clinic took place Friday, though construction is already underway, with concrete footers visible behind the speakers at the event.
Margowski, who served in Vietnam and is disabled, said the clinic will benefit thousands of Veterans who live in the western reaches of the Milwaukee VA’s service area, especially those who find it difficult to drive into Milwaukee.
“This CBOC (community-based outpatient clinic) is going to provide needed medical services,” he said, noting many Veterans are disabled. “This clinic will really help those Veterans who have a hardship traveling. … It’s going to enable Veterans to get care much closer to their homes.”
More than 10,000 Veterans live in the area, and about 5,500 of them are eligible for VA care, according to Milwaukee VA Medical Center Executive Director Jim McLain.
“We’re really excited to be able to expand services to more of our Veterans,” he said.
The new 8,500-square-foot VA facility at 1289 Olympia Fields Drive will offer a variety of services to Veterans, services including primary care, mental health and women’s health. The facility is expected to open by the end of the year at the latest, though McLain said a robust construction season could see an autumnal premiere.
“They’re really getting aggressive about build-out on this one,” McLain said, noting VA needs to respond in kind to have the clinic fully staffed.
The project began about 18 months ago and has been moving at a brisk pace since, he said, lauding the team at the Milwaukee VA and the developer, Wangard Partners.
“We recognized that this was important for us to do,” McLain said. “It’s unbelievable we were able to do this in a short period of time. It’s very rewarding.”
The clinic is part of the redevelopment of the former Olympia Fields resort. The mixed-use project has already been anchored by a grocery store, with other commercial and residential construction underway.
Oconomowoc Mayor Robert Magnus said that not long ago, “the whole area was blighted, and it was actually dangerous. Our city … worked with the whole team at Wangard to create something that was special.”
Magnus said the VA clinic is a key part of the development, saying he’s fielded multiple phone calls from residents eager for the clinic’s arrival.
“We’re very, very excited to have (VA) here,” he said.
McLain said he’s glad VA can be part of such a development, noting the clinic will be conveniently located to complementary businesses as well as residential areas.
“This is a great place for a clinic,” he said.
“Ultimately, it comes down to our mission, which is taking care of America’s Veterans, those who have put their life on the line in service of their country,” McLain said. “That’s why we’re here, and that’s why … we will make this a great clinic.”
Check out the video from the groundbreaking ceremony.
See more photos on our Flickr page.