Just eight months after it was unveiled at a meeting of the Southeast Health Planning Task Force, the 43,000-square-feet Lorton Station Medical Center broke ground Tuesday morning. It is scheduled to be operational this fall.
"This is the fastest growing area in this part of the county and most of the residents do not have easy access to comprehensive medical care," said Dr. Albert Herrera, one of three partners in the new $10 million venture.
He was joined at the site of the future complex, which will be an integral part of Lorton Town Center on Lorton Station Boulevard, by his two partners Dr. Stephanie Carter and Christopher Lucius. Both Herrera and Carter are internists and part of a group practice known as Mount Vernon Internal Medicine. Lucius is not a physician.
"This will be the first comprehensive medical facility in this area. Residents will no longer have to drive eight miles to get medical treatment," Herrera said.
"All the practices will be represented from primary care to specialties such as cardiology, OBGYN, pediatrics and others. We have in hand right now leases for 60 percent of the space and a lot of interest in the other 40 percent," he said.
"The people of Lorton Station and Laurel Hill will be able to come here for all their medical needs. We are immediately adjacent to the VRE Station which adds to the accessibility," Herrera said.
"THIS IS A NEW venture for me. I'm used to being a doctor. But, this is very exciting," Carter said. She had joined Herrera at the Task Force meeting last summer when their plan was first made public.
"We opened our office in Gunston and its already full. If you live here why would you want to drive eight miles for medical services," she said.
During the 18-month struggle to keep Inova Mount Vernon Hospital viable, which gave life to the Task Force, one of the primary desires was the establishment of a healthplex type facility in the Lorton/Laurel Hill area. The Task Force repeatedly urged Inova Health System to commit to such a facility. But, no commitment was forthcoming.
"During the discussions concerning Mount Vernon Hospital it was pointed out that there was a need for 40,000 square feet of medical office space in this area. That is why we will have 43,000 square feet," Herrera said.
The two-building complex will sit on three acres of land bounded by Lorton Station Boulevard and the entrance to the VRE Station. One structure will be approximately 27,000 square feet, with a landmark clock tower, which Herrera hopes will become a signature edifice. The second building will be 16,000 square feet. The site will also encompass its own parking area for patients.
HERRERA AND CARTER made their presentation to the Task Force last year at the behest of Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland who spearheaded the citizen effort to keep IMVH a full service medical facility. At that meeting in the South County Government Center, Hyland said, "What Inova recognized as a need [a healthplex type medical facility in the Lorton area] was right. These doctors have moved on that need."
At that same meeting, Pat Walters, IHS senior vice president, said, "They did approach us and said they planned to build a medical facility near the Lorton VRE Station. We have encouraged them. We feel they will be very successful there."
After making no commitment throughout the IMVH struggle and debates, IHS announced in October they now intend to build a Healthplex in the Lorton/Laurel Hill area. It will also be used to "feed" patients to IMVH, according to Susan Herbert, IMVH administrator. The Healthplex announcement was coupled with IHS's decision to maintain IMVH as a full service medical facility.
When asked at Tuesday's groundbreaking ceremony if IHS's decision to build a competing facility in the Lorton area would have an adverse impact on their medical center, Herrera said, "I have heard many commitments from Inova. We are moving ahead. This is a fast growing area with no doctors. We are very excited."
The Mount Vernon Internal Medicine group, of which Herrera and Carter are a part, has offices in Gunston Plaza and at 8109 Hinson Farm Road. Established in 1976 there are approximately 11 physicians in the practice.
Lorton Station Medical Center has been designed by Lessard Architectural Group. It will be built by L.F. Jennings, Inc.