The University of Virginia and Encompass Health hope to build a new inpatient rehabilitation hospital at UVa’s research park near the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport.

Currently, UVa Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital, a 50-50 joint venture between the university and the national health chain, is housed in the Fontaine Research Park on the southern edge of Charlottesville. But the hospital has outgrown its location, according to CEO Barbara Mohr, and officials believe a new 70-bed facility on the north side of town will help to better serve patients across Central Virginia.

The facility at Fontaine would close once the new hospital opens.

“We can’t expand any at our current location, and we really feel the need to expand our private rooms,” Mohr said. “Our patients’ needs are complex, and sometimes if someone needs a private room, all we can do is put them in a semi-private room and block off the other side, which also reduces capacity.”

Planning for the new project, to be located behind the Hollymead Fire Station at the UVa Research Park, has required some shuffling of UVa’s land and assets between its public and private entities.

In December, after considering whether to renovate the current building, UVa’s Board of Visitors authorized the UVa Medical Center to invest up to $20 million in the $37 million project.

“The current facility is constrained and will require major renovations, but will not be able to provide all of the improvements necessary for a modern rehabilitation hospital,” the board wrote in its authorization. “The Joint Venture has determined that the better course for patient care is to build a new, single-story, 70-bed inpatient rehabilitation hospital at the UVa Research Park, subject to obtaining a certificate of public need from the state.”

Virginia requires owners and sponsors of medical facility projects to secure a certificate of public need from the Virginia Department of Health and demonstrate that the proposed services are actually needed by a community.

According to a public notice, a hearing for the hospital’s certificate of public need will take place at 1 p.m. Thursday in the Madison Room of Central Library in Charlottesville. A public comment period will follow a brief presentation about the project.

The university already has bought back the rehab hospital’s current site in the Fontaine Research Park from the joint venture, as well as two other nearby parcels, at a total cost of $26.95 million, according to public records. The rehab hospital’s 3.43-acre parcel at Fontaine has a land value of $2.19 million and a total value of $13.55 million, according to the most recent assessments.

The Medical Center provided the funding for the land transfer, according to Colette Sheehy, UVa’s vice president for operations.

“We are not selling the land or the building to a third party,” Sheehy wrote in an email.

Deborah van Eersel, chief administrative officer and director of marketing for the UVa Foundation, said the foundation will transfer UVa Research Park land by the Hollymead Fire Station to the joint venture. The UVa Research Park’s administrators previously have discussed the possibility of adding a hotel, housing and retail space among office buildings.

“Though there were no specific plans for a hospital in the park, our plans did not preclude it,” van Eersel said. “The rehab hospital is an important facility that serves many in our region. We are delighted to be able to accommodate it in the park, and it complements our move towards a more mixed-use development.”

Mohr said, pending approvals, the hope is for new rehab hospital to open in 2021.

Ruth Serven Smith is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact her at (434) 978-7254, or @RuthServen on Twitter.

Ruth Serven Smith is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact her at (434) 978-7254, or @RuthServen on Twitter.

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