Staunton and the commonwealth have engaged in a land swap — to the benefit of both. Staunton is giving Virginia 66 acres in its Virginia Crossroads Business Park where a new, smaller Western State Hospital will be built. In exchange, the city will take ownership of the current 265-acre hospital campus, which will become a mixed-use development.
Founded in 1828, Western State once housed more than 3,300 mental-health patients, but it now has just 238. The new $127.5 million facility, funded with $112.5 million from the state and $15 million from Staunton, will open in 2013.
Bill Hamilton, Staunton’s director of economic development and tourism, says that the deal will be a boon to the area. For starters, the new hospital will create construction jobs. “This is one of the biggest construction projects we’ve ever had here,” Hamilton says, noting the local economy also is being bolstered by a $60 million expansion planned at Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind.
The current Western State campus adjoins an undeveloped parcel owned by the city, says Hamilton, so the entire site will include more than 300 acres.
He says that new development likely will include an office park, retail space, restaurants and a lodging facility.
“What’s of biggest importance to us is future job creation,” Hamilton says. “So we’re hoping that the development will include some higher-education facilities, some medical facilities and some research and development firms. The discussions with potential developers are all very preliminary, so at this point, we’re keeping a pretty open mind about the possibilities.”
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