Students at the College of William and Mary may soon have the option to receive medical care at an off-campus facility, contingent on the Real Estate Foundation’s planned acquisition of 332 North Henry Street.
The Foundation, which exists to purchase, sell and manage properties on behalf of the College’s educational goals, made an offer on the building after the owner publicly dropped the price.
The building has been on the market for the past eight years and has stood empty for the past 10. It was originally built for business executives in the medical industry and is equipped for medical care. The Foundation plans to lease the building to the College, where it will be used to provide additional medical care for students through a third party.
William & Mary Real Estate Foundation Executive Director Sean Hughes said that the Foundation had always had an eye on this building due to its built-in infrastructural quality and proximity to the College.
“We are generally aware of the university’s needs and wishes for future facilities and it made sense to pursue the property purchase for a number of reasons.”
“We are generally aware of the university’s needs and wishes for future facilities and it made sense to pursue the property purchase for a number of reasons,” Hughes said. “Mostly because it’s a rare thing when a building that size that well built in that close to the university becomes available. It just doesn’t happen in Williamsburg that often.”
According to Hughes, the College had put a public request for proposal for additional health services out into the Williamsburg area, and this building fit those specifications. He said that there are a few things that a building meant to be a medical facility needs that other buildings would lack, like an appropriate amount of power and compliance with medical codes. This was one of the compelling reasons that led the Foundation to make an offer on the building.
“The building has the appropriate amount of power going to it which is not always the case, it has a full building generator so that the generator kicks on if the building were ever to lose power,” Hughes said. “And it met at the time in 2009 all of the current medical codes which can be expensive to comply with in a plain old building. It just made sense for us to purchase it. And with the RFP out there it seemed like a great spot for to potentially have some of these services located.”
Vice President of Student Affairs Ginger Ambler ‘88 Ph.D. ‘06 said that the College was looking for increased health services in order to offer students a more complete health care experience. Currently, students are referred off campus for a number of specialized services and health care required on a more routine basis.
“We’re looking at the kinds of things that we currently already refer students to local providers for, for example specialized services,” Ambler said. “If students go to the health center and they need an X-ray, or they need to see an orthopedist, or they need to see a specialist of one variety or another. Our position is currently ‘make referrals to providers in the community.’ We also, as you probably know, have a pretty robust network of partners in the mental health field for students who need health services that can’t be provided on a routine basis through our current counseling center. Again, there are things that we don’t currently offer.”
The College will contract with a third-party provider who will staff the building and provide the medical services. While the McLeod Tyler Wellness Center is staffed by the College, this new facility would act as a nearby built-in referral for health needs that arise at the College. Ambler said that one of the benefits of this model is the reduced operational costs.
“Well the benefit of using and having this kind of partnership model is that the third party is hiring and paying for the staff who are providing the services,” Ambler said.
Currently, the College is in the process of evaluating proposals from different third parties and deciding which would be the best fit to contract with. The specific services that will be provided at this building are currently unknown. They could span anything from orthopedics to counseling.
“It’s possible — if additional psychiatry could be offered with this facility, again, that would expand our ability to meet student need,” Ambler said. “Also, other kinds of therapies as well. We don’t currently have, for example, intensive outpatient for eating disorders in Williamsburg. So that would meet a need. So, we’ve really tried to lay out in the request for proposal a wide range of things that would be beneficial, medical services to have close to campus in partnership with university to meet the campus community needs. And it’s also possible to expand services for faculty and staff through this facility. So, we’ve really painted a wide picture with what’s possible. And we’re anxious to see what the bids look like when they come in.”
Director of Procurement Services Erma Baker said that the names of firms submitting proposals to be considered by the College will only be released after the notice of intent to award a contract. While there was a preproposal conference held for interested firms, it was optional and some firms are still eligible to submit proposals even if they did not attend the conference.
Previously, College spokeswoman Suzanne Clavet had said that this facility would be used for “specialty health care needs for student athletes participating in varsity and club sports.”
However, Ambler said that since the RFP was first issued, athletics has hired a full-time physician to be their chief medical officer, negating the need for varsity athletic care at the North Boundary Street facility.
“Essentially we’re looking for these private partners to join us in thinking creatively about what we can do to really build up the strongest possible local support network for our students.”
“Essentially we’re looking for these private partners to join us in thinking creatively about what we can do to really build up the strongest possible local support network for our students,” Ambler said. “So, it will be it’ll be exciting to see what is in the proposals. They’ve had a chance to hear the variety of needs we have, and we certainly don’t expect that somebody will come in and be able to meet all of our needs. To be able to enhance what we have currently would be wonderful.”
However, before the Foundation can buy the building and the College can move forward with staffing plans, the Williamsburg city boards must approve a special use permit for the building to be able to operate as a medical facility. Even though the building was approved for this use in 2009, the building must be approved again. There will be a planning commission meeting mid-September followed by a council meeting mid-October. According to Hughes, any hang-ups or request by the city for additional information could delay this process by an extra month. Therefore, the Foundation could be approved to officially occupy the building and move to close on it at any point after that meeting in mid-October. Beyond that timeframe, there are no major renovations planned, just cleaning and general maintenance before the College’s chosen third party can begin staffing the facility.
“… I think it’s a great purchase,” Hughes said. “And I think it’ll be really beneficial to the students and the university community at large. … This is one of the reasons the Real Estate Foundation exists.”