A historic renewal for vets' center

Replacement buildings at Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics will meet seismic codes, yet still have similar brick architecture
S&B James Construction crews work Wednesday on Building 205A, a residential care facility at the Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics in White City.Mail Tribune / Julia Moore

WHITE CITY — New buildings are popping up at the old veterans domiciliary along Highway 62, but chances are most passers-by won't notice.

That's because the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is working closely with the State Historic Preservation Office to make sure any buildings being replaced at what is now the Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics reflect the historic architecture, explained Stacy Webster-Wharton, chief engineer.

"We worked very hard on the facade to make it not very obvious to anyone but us," she said of one residential care building completed last year.

"Even the brick they make for us is meant to look old so it looks old, complimenting the old brick buildings already here," she added. "It is a little darker now because it hasn't weathered as much yet."

Likewise, three building projects under way or about to start will capture the historic look of the center, built 71 years ago.

"Architecturally, what we are doing is very similar and complementary to the historic buildings," she said.

The old buildings were erected in 1942 when the U.S. Army established Camp White to train soldiers to fight in World War II. After the war, the facility became a domiciliary, then eventually the SORCC.

All the new structures will be built to withstand most earthquakes and will be more energy efficient, she said.

"A big component of these projects is to make these buildings meet the current seismic codes," she said.

Two local construction firms have been hired to do the work at a cost of $8 million to $9 million, she estimated.

Building 205A, under construction near the highway, will replace a residential care facility. Like the original, the 24,000-square-foot building will hold 84 beds when completed late this fall, she said.

Work to replace the nutrition and food services building, otherwise known simply as the kitchen, began last fall.

"We have to keep the old one up and running while building the new one next to that," she said. The 21,000-square-foot project should be completed by early fall.

That work has to be done seamlessly to ensure that the roughly 400 people who eat there daily don't miss a meal, she noted.

"As soon as the new building is up, we will move some of the old equipment over," she said, adding that the new kitchen also will receive some new equipment.

Construction workers have removed an unoccupied quarters building and will build a 16,500-square-foot primary care structure this year.

"It will still have brick and will historically complement the old building, but it will have a little different look," she said, noting it will include an atrium.

The primary care building — 201A — will offer services to female veterans on the second floor, while male veterans will be served on the first floor. That construction work should be completed by summer, she said.

During construction, about 440 beds are available for inpatient veterans in the residential buildings. When this phase of the construction is completed, the center will house some 450 veterans.

The facility also serves more than 17,000 outpatients throughout the region.

Coming projects include replacing the chapel as well as another residential care building, she said.

The SORCC, which has a staff of about 550, along with some 500 volunteers, has an annual budget of about $90 million.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com



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