published Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Health center still plans to move


by Emily Bregel
Audio clip

Maria Noel

Leaders of the Southside and Dodson Avenue Community Health Centers are pushing ahead with plans to relocate the Southside site, despite not receiving an anticipated federal grant.

The health centers’ board of directors voted Thursday to recommend relocation of the Southside Community Health Center to an 8.2-acre tract. The new site is within a mile of the current center, in the former Franklin Middle School on 37th Street.

The board met earlier than scheduled this month so it could seek approval for the project from Erlanger hospital’s board of trustees, which will meet Thursday, said Bill Hicks, executive director of the community health centers.

Time is of the essence in getting this project started, he said. Last year, Hamilton County Schools sold Franklin Middle School to Helton Construction. The property sales agreement guarantees that the health center can remain in the school at a lease price of $1 a year through May 2012, he said.

After that time, however, the new owner could charge the centers 80 percent of fair market value for the 25,000-square-foot space that is leased, Mr. Hicks said.

“We have this clock ticking,” Mr. Hicks said.

The local health centers had been vying for a chunk of $500 million in federal stimulus money to pay for construction of the new center, which will feature updated equipment and a community health education and outreach center.

Officials found out at the end of 2009 that they didn’t receive the funding, although a separate stimulus grant of $638,000 was awarded to the Dodson Avenue Community Health Center for renovations, Mr. Hicks said.

The centers are still pressing ahead with their original plan and are seeking a developer to construct an 8,000-square-foot center, which Erlanger hospital will lease on behalf of the health centers for 15 months, he said.

The new center will have room to expand and will be much more visible to passers-by in the neighborhood, compared to the current site which is on a small street and not visible from a major road, Joe Reed, chairman of the health centers’ governing board, said.

HEALTH CLINIC LOCATION CRITERIA

* Medically underserved area

* On a bus route or near public transportation and a major thoroughfare

* Within one mile of current Southside Community Health Center site

* Ample parking

* Safe surroundings

* Visible and accessible

* Room for growth

Source: Southside and Dodson Avenue Community Health Centers’ strategic planning committee

“The old site is set back. People don’t know it’s there unless someone tells them,” he said.

The plans are a source of hope for leaders in the neighborhood surrounding the site, said Maria Noel, manager of the Renewal Community program in Alton Park.

The new site is at the corner of Ohls Avenue and 38th Street, near the housing project the Villages at Alton Park.

“We’re hoping, with the development there, it will jump-start further development down 38th Street and on Alton Park Boulevard,” she said.

The planned Southside site is considered a “brownfield” site because of waste left there by a now-defunct glass company. As part of a renewal effort, the city awarded an Environmental Protection Agency grant to nonprofit BrightBridge Inc. to assess and remove any environmental hazards at the Southside site and at other brownfield locations in the city, said Joe Guthrie, president of the company.

Continue reading by following this link to a related story:

Article: Health centers board OKs partner talks

about Emily Bregel...

Health care reporter Emily Bregel has worked at the Chattanooga Times Free Press since July 2006. She previously covered banking and wrote for the Life section. Emily, a native of Baltimore, Md., earned a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Columbia University. She received a first-place award for feature writing from the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists’ Golden Press Card Contest for a 2009 article about a boy with a congenital heart defect. She ...

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