CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The $47.9 million, 108-bed Tennessee State Veterans' Home in Bradley County is on track for completion in 2022.
"This project would not have been possible without the support of the community, and we are thrilled to be able to provide a state-of-the-art facility for the veterans of Southeast Tennessee," Tennessee State Veterans' Home board executive director Ed Harries said.
The multi-building facility will include features such as a bistro with a covered outdoor kitchen and a therapy walking trail. It rises against a backdrop of a wooded ridge and sits several hundred yards from the road, which makes it surprisingly quiet for its proximity to a nearby industrial park.
Tennessee State Veterans' Homes executive office spokesperson Melanie Cook said in an email that the facility will open in the summer of 2022.
"Currently, we are working on the interior and exterior finishes, which include wall, floor and ceiling coatings," she said.
Officials said the project is about 80% complete.
"Early in construction, there were a lot of weather-related delays," Cook said. "We are now dealing with supply chain delays, but our contractor partners have done a great job minimizing the impact so far."
Officials with the state's Real Estate Asset Management Division, which is under the Tennessee Department of General Services, are happy with the project, Cook said.
"Our partners are committed to delivering a first-class facility for the local veterans and the community," a statement from the division said. "As we enter the final push for completion, there are more than 100 skilled workers on site every day, many of whom are veterans themselves. We appreciate their service to our country and this veterans' home."
The single-story, "modern-rustic" home on almost 28 acres on Westland Drive near the end of Kile Lane is a short drive to medical centers in Cleveland and Chattanooga and features private rooms with shared common areas that have ceiling-high stone fireplaces and cozy dining spaces, officials said. The home will offer a state-of-the-art therapy gym and courtyards with views of a wooded ridge and old farm pasture.
"We've got six houses consisting of 18 bedrooms in each one, and those houses share some common areas," said Taylor Wyrick, director of construction and facilities management with the Tennessee State Veterans' Homes Board.
The houses are connected in a duplex configuration with common areas shared by the two houses within each duplex.
Residents of the house share a small kitchen area called a "servery" where food from the main kitchen in the community center is served on steam tables and other serving features, Wyrick said as he walked the perimeter of the project recently.
"There's a dining room on either side of the servery, and in the living room there's large two-sided fireplaces in each of those living rooms and the fireplace separates the living room from the dining room," he said, pointing out chimneys poking up from the houses that allow the gas fireplaces to vent.
Each duplex will be serviced by a neighborhood center containing support spaces such as kitchen, medication rooms, clean and soiled utility rooms, staff lockers and staff offices, according to officials.
The community center consists of a reception area, great room, bistro, therapy gym, barber/beauty shop, chapel, activity room and support services such as laundry and a main kitchen, officials said. Staff offices and a conference room are also located in the community center.
Outdoor spaces include a covered outdoor kitchen, a therapy trail with multiple walking surfaces and an outdoor dining area attached to the bistro. Each duplex has an outdoor courtyard with furnishings, officials said.
Wyrick, a U.S. Air Force veteran, said each of the houses is named for a native local wild animal and the community center is called Starr Mountain Lodge, named for the mountain of the same name in Polk County's Cherokee National Forest and visible from the property.
The Christman Group is the general contractor. Project manager Scott Orsburn said crews — which included a number of military veterans — are working on final finishes like flooring, paint and cabinetry and wrapping up the final details on the houses.
Orsburn pointed out airbrushed details on huge structural "timbers" made of concrete at the community center entrance that were done on-site by one of the contractors to make them look very real.
Landscaping and planting will be done in the spring, he said.
Officials broke ground Aug. 21, 2019, on the home funded in part by a $30.5 million U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs grant approved by the state building commission, according to officials.
The state put $10 million into the project. The city of Cleveland and Bradley County each donated more than $2 million, and an anonymous donation of $3 million topped off local fundraising by the Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home Council. The families of Steve Williams, Thomas Williams and Robert Wright donated the land for the facility in 2010.
Nearly 50,000 veterans live in the six-county area to be served by the home in Cleveland.
Dave Hall, board chairperson of the Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home Council and a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Army and National Guard, said he was glad to see the Cleveland home closing in on completion and that he was impressed with the quality of the facility.
"We were hoping that it would already be open by now, but I'm glad it's progressing. It's getting close to completion," Hall said. "When it is [finished], everybody's going to be happy."
Hall said he and others from the council a year or so ago took a tour of the veterans' home in Clarksville, the most-recent addition to state's homes and very similar to the one taking shape in Cleveland.
"That thing was fantastic. It was so pretty and really nice," Hall said.
Hall noted how design and decor differed from house to house in Clarksville so that residents with cognitive problems can stay better oriented when walking around. He said he was looking forward to seeing how the same ideas were applied at the Cleveland home so veterans in its service area can enjoy the same kinds of benefits.
In the Clarksville home's community center bistro, Hall said he spoke to a man and woman playing dominoes — an Army veteran and an Air Force veteran.
"The man said, 'You know, we really appreciate this place,'" he said. "All the residents we talked to were really satisfied with the way they were treated, with the facility itself, and they were just happy."
Cook said Wednesday the home in Cleveland will join other veterans' homes in Clarksville, Humboldt, Knoxville, Memphis and Murfreesboro. Also coming in a few years will be a home in Arlington that will be similar in design to the home in Cleveland, she said.
Contact Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.
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