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Ed Harries, executive director for the Tennessee State Veterans' Home, discusses concept designs for a proposed 108-bed facility with members of the Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home Council.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Conceptual design plans for a proposed 108-bed veterans home in South Cleveland have been unveiled, marking a major milestone in an effort that dates back more than 10 years.

In a meeting this week at the Cleveland Regional Jetport, state officials discussed the project with nearly two dozen members of the Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home Council.

"It's a brighter day," said state Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder. She was recalling a serious setback in November 2013 when state officials feared the site donated for the project was the wrong shape and size.

With those challenges overcome through the cooperation of local government, veterans, donors and the community, the veterans home is closer to becoming a reality, Grinder said.

"You've got a community that loves and supports its veterans, and we refuse to quit," said Mark Hall, co-chairman of the veterans home panel.

In the conceptual designs, the home's aesthetics are intended to match the community's culture, using a lot of wood, stone and glass elements, said Ed Harries, executive director of the Tennessee State Veterans Home.

Harries said the chalet-like appearance of the Cleveland Regional Jetport terminal actually served as inspiration for the facility's concept.

Site plans call for nine houses with a "cabin/lodge type of feel," said Gregory Lusk, an architectural consultant with The Lewis Group. Each house will contain 12 private rooms.

Amenities include a bistro, a plaza with an outdoor fireplace, green space and a community center, he said.

The veterans home will be a skilled nursing facility with rehabilitative and therapeutic programs, said Harries.

"I'm very encouraged by the design," said Larry McDaris, director of Bradley County's veterans service office. "It's very fitting for our area and it's going to be something we can all be proud of."

Officials also asked when they might get a green light -- and more than $32 million in federal funding-- to build the home.

Grinder said she does not expect it will happen this year. Only about $85 million has been available for all veterans homes' construction in recent budget cycles, she said, down from $250 million a few years ago.

The key is having everything in place, from local funding to site preparation, when the federal money comes through, she said.

The project already has the donated land and $7 million committed locally, officials said. Bradley County and Cleveland have each committed $2 million to the project and an anonymous donor has committed $3 million, thus covering the local cost match required for the federal money.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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After more than 10 years of planning, South Cleveland may be about to get a new veterans home.
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