Big changes at Temple VA
3-deck parking garage, warehouse conversions among upgrades at Olin E. Teague Veterans Center.
A massive US flag adorns the front of the main hospital tower (Building 204) at the Olin E. Teague Veterans Center in Temple. Several major construction projects are in the works on the VA campus, including the construction of a three-level parking garage that will hold 364 cars, the reconstruction of the Avenue of Flags, the removal of eight temporary portable-style buildings and renovations to numerous World War II-era barracks that have been used as warehouses for decades. The renovated buildings will house everything from campus police headquarters to nutrition and food services offices. David Stone photo
Eight temporary buildings are being removed from the VA campus as part of a massive renovation project. Three of the buildings are gone and the remaining five will be moved this fall. The employees who work in the temporary buildings will be moving to old warehouses that are being renovated. David Stone photo
The main hospital building is shown above from the eastern shore of 52-acre Tarrant Lake on the VA campus. The lake is routinely stocked with fish by Texas Parks & Wildlife and a trail around the lake eventually will be paved to provide an exercise path for veterans and VA employees. David Stone photo
One of the most noticeable projects at the VA is the rebuilding of the Avenue of Flags, which runs parallel to Veterans Memorial Drive between the Emergency Room and the line of US flags. The road was destroyed by freezing weather during February 2021 and is being replaced. The work on the roughly quarter-mile road began in June and will be completed this summer. David Stone photo
This rendered photo shows a three-level, 364-space parking garage that will be built near the center of the 186-acre Temple VA campus. Construction on the deck is just getting under way. Courtesy rendering
DAVID STONE | June 19, 2022
A new parking deck, upgrades to the VA nursing home, road improvements and the renovation of decades-old military buildings are part of a massive series of construction projects in progress at Olin E. Teague Veterans Center in Temple.
The projects are part of a plan to improve the experiences of veterans who rely on the Temple VA for their health-care needs, Andrew Garcia, associate director of the Central Texas VA system, said during a tour of the campus.
The first stop on the tour was at the Avenue of Flags, a quarter-mile road that runs parallel to Veterans Memorial Drive between the line of US flags and the Emergency Room.
“We started this road project about a month ago,” Garcia said. “This stretch of road was torn up during the cold spell in February 2022. It was in bad shape, and it’s used by ambulances so it is important that the road is smooth.”
“Right now, our main ER entrance is closed because of construction, so ambulances are using a modified side entrance,” Garcia said.
The road project should be complete by late July.
While the Avenue of Flags project is highly visible to passers by, most of the other projects are not.
One of the biggest projects is the construction of a three-level parking garage located near the center of the 186-acre Temple campus just north of the main hospital tower (Building 204).
“All levels will be above ground, and we will have 364 parking spots,” said Charles Yale, the associate chief engineer for the project. The levels will be served by stairs and an elevator, and call boxes also will be installed in case of emergency, he said.
“This is really going to help with our parking issue when it’s complete,” Garcia said. “But the garage is being constructed in the middle of an existing parking lot, so we will be a little short for a while. But it will be well worth the sacrifice.”
Another VA project calls for the removal of eight temporary buildings similar to portables used by school districts. Three are already gone, and the five remaining buildings should be moved out by fall, Garcia said.
The temporary buildings have served multiple uses, and workers will soon move to old warehouses that are being renovated, said Jill Preusse, a strategic planner for the VA.
The warehouses were built as barracks in 1942, the year McCloskey General Hospital was constructed. The military hospital was later turned over to the VA system and the barracks became warehouses.
But now, the Temple VA is finding a new use for the buildings.
“We are keeping as many original beams, wooden floors and brick walls in place as possible,” Garcia said. “But the buildings will have modern features.”
The two-story former warehouses are in varying stages of completion, but some are now outfitted with meeting rooms, elevators and rows of worker stations and screening rooms.
The buildings are connected by a corridor that allows workers and patients to move from one building to another without going outside.
Once complete, the renovated warehouses will serve a variety of departments and will include finance, nursing education, a campus police station, home-based primary care and integrated case management departments, and the nutrition and food-services leadership team offices.
The massive former warehouse complex will serve other departments as well.
Covered walkways leading from the streets to the VA nursing home and community living center are being installed to allow patients to be transitioned in or out of the facility regardless of weather conditions.
One of the walkways has been installed and work will soon start on a second.
The VA’s mental health domiciliary also is being renovated and expanded. Again, the original flooring, beams and bricks are being saved in some locations.
“All of these construction projects are being done by small, veteran-owned businesses,” Garcia said. “Right now, we have three primary construction companies working on the campus.”
During Friday’s tour of the construction areas, Garcia took the group on a spin around 52-acre Tarrant Lake, located on the east side of the VA campus. The lake is a popular fishing hole for local veterans and their families, but it is not open to the public. The lake is routinely stocked by Texas Parks & Wildlife.
A park-like setting surrounds the lake with benches, picnic areas and a small pavilion. There is a walking trail around the lake and a couple of VA employees were getting in morning runs.
“At some point we would like to pave the trail,” Garcia said. “I think veterans and our employees would take advantage of it for exercise.”
A helicopter-themed playground is at the park for children visiting their loved ones at the VA, but the most remarkable feature of the Tarrant Lake area is a 17-acre solar farm just off the lake’s southern shore.
“The farm was built in 2012 and we don’t really have to do much with it other than routine maintenance,” Garcia said. “That farm produces 30 percent of the energy we use here on the Temple campus.”
World War II-era barracks buildings that have served as warehouses for decades are being renovated into offices, health-care space and a multitude of other uses at the Temple VA center. Those are original floors and beams that are being used in the renovation work. David Stone photo
Construction on the Avenue of Flags is visible from this entrance to the Olin E. Teague Veterans Center. The avenue, which runs parallel to Veterans Memorial Drive between the Emergency Room and the long line of American flags, was heavily damaged during the 2021 ice storm. Potholes and broken road surfaces made for a bumpy ambulance ride. The rebuilt Avenue of Flags will open soon. David Stone photo
Power to the VA
A 17-acre solar farm sits on the southern end of Tarrant Lake at the Olin E. Teague Veterans Center in Temple. The farm — there’s a close-up view below — generates enough power to meet 30 percent of the electrical needs at the campus. David Stone photo (above), Courtesy drone phone (below).
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