Project team prevails by focusing on end user

August 22, 2019

The exterior of a building with a sign that says "VA outpatient clinic" in black letters
A new Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Dubuque, Iowa, is scheduled to be operational in late August. (Courtesy of Plaza 20 LLC)

By Alison Kohler

DUBUQUE, Iowa — An integrated project team from U.S. General Services Administration and Veterans Health Administration used its focus on veterans receiving better non-urgent health care to overcome unique challenges on a GSA lease acquisition.

“With the end user being the veterans, the team bought into the project very early on in the process, and we were looking at that from the beginning,” said GSA Region 6 Lease Contracting Officer Traun Roberts. “(The project) was extremely technical and was substantially different from traditional GSA lease procurement actions.”

When it comes to GSA’s role in acquiring space and managing its build-out to meet a federal agency’s need, the bread and butter of GSA’s business is office space. Some regional GSA lease contracting officers and project managers have taken on challenging requirements for labs or weather stations, and Roberts said he was hopeful that the success of this project serves as a benchmark on other medical clinic projects.

Challenges abound

Apart from inherent challenges with any unfamiliar assignment, the schedule for completing the project was tight.

“The schedule was one of the known risks going into the project,” Roberts said. The existing community based outpatient clinic, which is a part of the Iowa City VA Health Care System, had to vacate its current premises by September 2019.

“That was the biggest driver: to meet budget, scope and schedule,” Roberts said.

An unexpected partial government shutdown in late 2018 and early 2019 presented another challenge. Despite being able to progress on the project as an excepted activity to protect the Government's interests in the continued performance of design and construction contracts funded from prior-year resources and performed by private contractors, other activities that weren’t funded or operating were delayed and created ripple effects.

A repurposed K-Mart and a repeat federal agency customer

The new CBOC is scheduled to open its doors to area veterans Aug. 26 at the 2600 Dodge St. location. The site is a former K-Mart store, of which GSA leased about 20,000 rentable square feet on behalf of the Veterans Health Administration from a local lessor, Plaza 20 LLC.

“The lessor was able to provide us favorable pricing through a competitive procurement process, based on clear requirements and the long-term agency need in the market,” Roberts said.

The lessor’s architect, along with GSA and VHA, worked together to create a well-designed space and scope of work. Subsequently, the general contractor, “cranked out a superior product in only a 6-month time frame,” Roberts said.

The VHA completed several site visits to confirm the government received the agreed-upon quality of build-out work, and inspection reports were on par, Roberts said.

GSA Furniture Project Manager Kim Crane, seamlessly integrated the furniture procurement and delivery into the larger construction schedule. The VHA cut a ribbon and hosted tours of the new clinic on Aug. 15.

GSA Heartland Public Buildings Service managed a previous project for the Iowa City VA Health Care System, which completed in 2018, and is in progress on another in North Platte, Nebraska.

“When I received the call asking for assistance with a CBOC project in Iowa, I immediately said, ‘Sure,’" said GSA Regional Account Manager John Strickert. “In Region 6, we typically work with the Veterans Benefits Administration, so working with the Veterans Health Administration was a little new — especially a space that had so many medical components. Being a veteran myself, I take great pride in working with VA.”

Roberts attributed the success of the project to many dedicated people who focused on the ultimate outcome of better health care for veterans.

“Everybody was in step; the biggest thing was to get this done and done right. It was very important to a lot of people,” Roberts said.

“In the end, everyone did a great job: leasing, estimating, field office support, furniture design, procurement and everyone else involved,” Strickert said.

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