Shelby County leaders and Arlington’s top brass in particular were happy to hear last week’s news that 40-45 acres at the town’s old Arlington Development Center location was recommended as the site of the state’s newest veterans’ home.
The development is estimated at $70 million, not including the land acquisition, and will be designed to house 144 U.S. military veterans.
The property is located behind the Arlington Sports Complex on Memphis-Arlington Road west of Tennessee 385 and north of Interstate 40.
The land is currently owned by the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and was able to be considered for the project after the Arlington Development Center’s lawsuit was settled in 2013.
Arlington mayor Mike Wissman said, “We’re extremely excited. It’s something that we’ve worked on for quite some time.”
He cited the work of Shelby County mayor Mark Luttrell Jr., Sen. Mark Norris and Rep. Ron Lollar as key parts of securing the project for Arlington.
The town has the space, the nearby restaurants and other amenities, as well as the desired good visibility for the facility from Tennessee 385, he said.
“Arlington is so young,” Wissman said, noting that it doesn’t currently have a comparable facility.
He sees the veterans’ home as an opportunity to serve not only the veterans but also to give churches, schools, businesses and individual philanthropists a new place to share their time and perform community service.
“The opportunities are endless,” he said.
Funding will come from multiple sources: $45.5 million from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and $24.5 million generated by state and local governments and private fundraising.
The $24.5 million must be raised before the VA releases its funding for construction.
To date, Shelby County has allocated $2 million, and the state has approved spending $650,000 so far on site selection, planning and preparation. The West Tennessee Veterans Home board, a nonprofit group based in Memphis, is working on fundraising.
Yvette Martinez, assistant commissioner of communications for the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs, said Monday that the land acquision has not yet been finalized, but the Arlington site is the primary focus.
“Other potential sites were shared with the State of Tennessee Real Estate Asset Management (STREAM) division, but it is prudent to focus resources and funding on a single primary location until the site is acquired or deemed unviable,” she said. “At this time, the Arlington property and the infrastructure leading to the site appear to be ideal for the future site. The site is currently being surveyed.”
She said it’s estimated that the transfer of land from the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities to the Tennessee Department of General Services will cost approximately $410,000.
The estimated number of employees needed to operate the facility would be approximately 250, Martinez said.
There are 70,000 veterans in the Shelby, Tipton and Fayette County area, more than any other area of the state.
Currently, there are Tennessee State Veterans Homes in Murfreesboro, Humboldt and Knoxville. The future Brigadier General Wendell H. Gilbert Tennessee State Veterans Home in Clarksville is expected to begin admissions this summer.
These Homes are beloved in their communities and are premier five-star facilities, Martinez said.
For more information, go online to tsvh.org/index.html.