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Officials, veterans celebrate new VA outpatient clinic, opening Monday in Waterloo

Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier - 9/22/2023

Sep. 22—WATERLOO — Tim and Felina Houts have connections to both the future and former uses of a massive building off Progress and University avenues.

One of the Cedar Falls couple's sons used to work at the old Hy-Vee grocery store at 4000 University Ave. Another son serves in the Army and is a veteran like his father, who served in the Navy from 1970 to 1974 — including during the Vietnam War.

On Monday, a 21,000-square-foot area on the eastern side of the facility will open as a Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic.

Tim Houts will be among at least 4,200 veterans from the Cedar Valley and greater Northeast Iowa region to benefit from the new facility that is more than twice the size of the clinic it's replacing at 945 Tower Park Drive. The enhanced clinic will offer a greater number of services overall closer to the veterans' homes.

Felina Houts noted how she sent a photo of the clinic to her one son, letting him know how "this doesn't look like Hy-Vee anymore." And Tim Houts added how "it is much closer to his home than (the other) one in Waterloo" and how he'd even have to go to Iowa City for services related to his hearing aid.

"They just had an audiology technician," he said. Now he and others will have access to an audiologist, an expert in hearing.

The Houts were among nearly 100 people — many of them veterans — to gather for remarks and a ribbon cutting at the new clinic on Thursday afternoon. The celebration and tour also included a flag raising ceremony led by the University of Northern Iowa Reserve Officers' Training Corps members. Clinic hours will be 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The VA satellite locations move every 10 to 20 years due to outgrowing spaces as they add more services.

The new clinic will offer primary care, mental health, physical therapy, audiology, a pharmacist, and a dietician as well as radiology, lab, women's treatment, telehealth, and other social services. Optometry will be offered in the near future.

About 40 people will work out of the massive facility with 18 primary care rooms. That is part of about 30 treatment and exam rooms spanning the various specialties and 60-70 estimated spaces with bright colors and taller ceilings.

"Over time, we'd like to still see the addition of chiropractic care, home-based primary care and then additional mental health services," Waterloo Clinical Manager Kathy Kroemer told those in attendance.

Also on site will be public contact representatives to help with the various veteran claims, benefits and forms as part of the community-based outpatient clinic initiative, helping reach more rural veterans, and the deceased veterans' widows and children.

"The space will give us more room to expand, more opportunities to grow and a better position to engage the healthcare needs of our patients for years to come, enrolling more veterans who will choose the VA for their health care," said Heath Streck, associate director for operations of the Iowa City VA Health Care System.

Back in 2021, the building's landlord, Highland Enterprises, acquired the property with the 65,000-square-foot building from Hy-Vee for $1.6 million.

Chris Williams, a partner, says the remaining 44,000 square feet has not yet been leased, but noted how the business is interested in retail and medical uses.

The investors have been involved in different VA facilities and redevelopment projects throughout the Midwest, including the outpatient clinic in Ottumwa, according to Williams.


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