By the fall of 2015, Crawford County residents will be able to receive therapy, get a massage or see their orthopedic doctor in Vernon Township once Meadville Medical Center’s Vernon Place project is complete.

Construction is currently taking place at the 44-acre site of the former Meadville Mall and present Kmart properties on route 6, 19 and 322 across from the Yolanda G. Barco Oncology Institute and will entail a three-phase construction of an outpatient site for MMC.

Phase one of the $30 million project, scheduled for 61 weeks of construction, broke ground Sept. 22, according to Meadville Medical Center Vernon Place Committee Chair Anne White. She said the construction crews are thrilled with the site because the usual mud and dust which accompanies a construction job isn’t present. Since crews have only disturbed the ground the building is going on, the construction process will go faster. The starting point for the building project is an asphalt pad, White said.

Phase one is a 86,000 square foot building that will house outpatient services such as occupation, speech and physical therapy; Crawford County Sports Medicine; magnetic resonance imaging; occupational medicine; and a Vernon Township Young Men’s Christian Association annex — complete with volleyball and racquetball courts on the first floor.

The second floor will be the new home of Orthopedic Associates, currently located at Alden Place in Meadville; outpatient radiology; massage therapy; and women’s diagnostic services.

“This is a move to put everything under one roof,” White said. “We’re excited to be participating with the community through the promotion of health and wellness.”

White said phase two of the plan has yet to be finalized. According to White, MMC envisions more outpatient services being moved to Vernon Place after phase two is complete. She explained when the hospital’s Liberty Street and Grove Street facilities were originally built in the 1890s, the primary care was inpatient. Today, 70 percent of the hospital’s business is outpatient.

Phase one of the project is under construction by local or regional laborers whenever possible, an aspect that excites White.

White said as of Sept. 30, 75 percent of the $30 million budgeted for the project had been allocated. Of those funds, 94 percent has been earmarked to local and regional companies. The job is overseen by project construction managers Massaro Corp. of Pittsburgh.

“We broke down our bid packages to allow our local and regional trades to participate,” White said. “We realize this is a project which can impact local employment and the economy.”

MMC has requested Massaro to use either a Crawford County construction crew or a company based within 50 miles of the job site. In addition using local crews to perform the work, White said MMC is encouraging Massaro to purchase materials and supplies needed for phase one from local companies.

Vernon Township, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Crawford County Conservancy District have all pitched in to make the zoning, construction permits and wetland mitigation process much easier for MMC, White said.

“We’re pleased to have the support of our community — it makes a difference,” White said. “Nobody can do it alone. We’ve got to help and listen to each other.”

Meadville Medical Center is the largest non-industrial employer in Crawford County with between 1,400 to 1,450 employees working in the local health system.

“The hospital is an independent community hospital,” White said.

Phase three won’t begin until Kmart’s lease is up in the fall of 2017. Once the lease is up, Kmart has six months to vacate the premises, White said.

Rick Miller, manager of the Vernon Township Kmart, told the Tribune on Thursday that the store has a lease and the future of the local store is in the hands of the corporate offices. Phone calls to Kmart’s corporate offices weren’t returned.

Earl Corp can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at ecorp@meadvilletribune.com.

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