New Veterans Affairs Clinic Moves Forward
By Craig Manning | June 11, 2018
Plans are rolling forward for the new Veterans Affairs (VA) clinic near Chums Corner.
The Demas T. Craw Department of Veterans Affairs VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic will be located at 701 U.S. 31 South, just north of Chums Corner. Early this spring, the VA signed a 20-year lease for the property with Alpena-based company KF Commercial Properties. KF, which will also serve as the project developer, owns several other VA clinic facilities throughout the state.
In a letter of intent addressed to the Blair Township Zoning Board and dated May 11, Jeff Konczak of KF outlined plans to gut the long-abandoned Save-A-Lot grocery store at the site and renovate it to serve as the bulk of the clinic building. KF has also acquired three adjoining parcels to help “encompass the entire VA site.” One of those lots is the former home of the Metro Coney & Grill (previously an Arby’s), which will be torn down to make way for additions to the clinic building. A pair of lots to the north, meanwhile, are intended for the clinic’s planned 147-space parking lot.
All told, the VA site will cover approximately seven acres. The clinic building itself will have 22,900 usable square feet. It will be the largest VA clinic in northern Michigan and one of the largest in the entire state. The project is estimated to cost around $9.5 million.
Blair Township has received design blueprints for the new clinic. According to Township Supervisor Nicole Blonshine, the plans will be reviewed by the Planning Commission at a June 20 meeting. Provided that the commission raises no objections, earth-moving and excavation could begin this summer, with construction and renovation work to follow. The goal is for the clinic to be finished and ready to open its doors by spring 2019.
Demas T. Craw, the clinic’s namesake, was a United States Army Air Forces officer who was born in Traverse City in 1900. He served as a colonel in World War II and was killed in action on November 8, 1942. He later received the Medal of Honor for his role in the war.
Once complete, the clinic will offer a full array of outpatient care services, including blood draws, lab work, mental health care, addiction treatment, and primary care. Blonshine says that veterans in the past have had few options for accessing many of these services in northern Michigan – due in part to the small size and limited services of the current Traverse City VA clinic.
“The new clinic will provide all the services that veterans from the northern Michigan area have traditionally had to travel down to Saginaw to receive,” she says.
Plans to open a new VA clinic in northern Michigan are not new. Blonshine says that talks for the project have been percolating in some form for the past seven years. Until recently, though, there had been no appreciable action toward getting the ball rolling. That changed earlier this year when Senator Debbie Stabenow announced the initial plans for the Chums Corner clinic. Now, things seem to be moving along at a steady clip.
“There’s a signed contract and plans have been submitted to the planning commission,” Blonshine says. “So this project is definitely a go. It’s very exciting for our township.”