Plans have been released for a massive new Veterans Affairs Hospital that will serve veterans across Iowa’s western third. At one-million square feet, it promises to be the largest public works project in Omaha/Council Bluffs since the 1960s.

Chief engineer Bob Yager says the ultimate price tag is estimated at $560-million. “The big highlights of the building are this large, glass, curved concourse that will allow natural daylight to come into the building and it will be very much an atrium-type space,” Yager says.

“We’ll get daylight onto the first floor and that’s where all of our patient amenities are, our canteen, our coffee shop and things like that will be.” Yager says the Omaha facility will be very modern and easy to navigate. He says it’s difficult to determine a time-table for the hospital due to funding.

He says, “We’re hoping we’ll be able to release some construction early, starting in the summer of 2013 with parking structures and an essential energy plant but that is depending on the FY13 federal budget being passed and having constructions funds in there.” For now, the completion date is set for 2018. Yager says once the new facility us up and in full operation, the current V-A hospital will be demolished. He says something special is being planned for the spot where it now stands.

“We’re looking at a veterans’ memorial being on that site,” Yager says. “It happens to be the highest geographical point in the city of Omaha and we would like to place something there that’s meaningful for veterans on the highest ground in the city and I think that’s going to be a very meaningful tribute to our veterans.”

 The current V-A Hospital was built about 60 years ago and a recent study found the building to be inadequate to meet the needs of patients.