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BayCare's involves residents in plans for wellness campus

VALRICO — BayCare Health System plans to build its first wellness campus in the Brandon/Valrico community, and it's allowing some residents to have a voice in those plans.

BayCare, Tampa Bay's largest health care provider with a network of 14 hospitals and more than 160 outpatient facilities, will situate the center near the intersection of Bloomingdale Avenue and Lithia Pinecrest Road. It plans to begin building the facility on a 21-acre site along the eastern edge of the intersection's northwest quadrant, behind the former Albertsons supermarket on land that currently serves as a cow pasture.

The complex will consist of a 115,000-square-foot, two-story building with spaces for doctors' offices, imaging services, a pharmacy and a physical rehabilitation facility. It'll also include suggestions made by residents.

"We've restricted our height to 35 feet based on neighborhood feedback and this (project) is less dense than current zoning requires," said BayCare Regional Communications Manager Lisa Patterson, who also noted that company officials hosted four meetings in 2016 and another on Tuesday (Jan. 31) seeking input on the project from local residents as well as addressing their concerns.

"We even held off on purchasing the land until we talked with the neighbors," Patterson said.

Based on their suggestions, other amenities under discussion include a restaurant or snack bar featuring nutritious choices and walking trails, all in an effort to promote healthy lifestyles and to be enjoyed by the community at large.

"It definitely will not look like a typical medical office," she said. "The whole campus incorporates wellness, making it a place where people will want to come when they are healthy, not just sick."

BayCare social worker Lauren Giordano is a nearby resident and although she has no direct decision-making involvement in the organization's wellness complex, she's joined some of her neighbors in attending the meetings.

"I think the whole process has been great because the people appreciate being part of the planning," she said. "One of the neighbors who came out said what he saw was the thoughtfulness and care BayCare is putting into this project."

"Someone was going to build there regardless, so what I'm getting from the community is that they like knowing what's coming," she added.

Construction on the three-phase, $48 million project is scheduled to begin by October with a goal of completion by early 2018.

Contact Joyce McKenzie at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

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