Waco Family Medicine officials, local elected leaders, and celebrities Chip and Joanna Gaines laid the foundation stone Thursday for a $61 million central facility for the nonprofit Medical Services Corporation.
The new four-story building will replace the existing facility on the same site at the 1600 block of Colcord Street and allow the organization to expand patient capacity and physician training options, provide space for complementary community services and continue to devise ways to meet community health and care needs.
CEO Dr. Jackson Griggs told his audience that the new center will continue Waco Family Medicine’s goal of serving its community while providing residents of Waco and McLennan County with a way to help their neighbors.
“This is a work of God,” said Griggs. “In essence, we want to love and serve our neighbor.”
The federally qualified health center and its 15 clinics across the county provided medical, dental and behavioral health services to 61,394 people last year, most of whom were low-income or uninsured. Residents of the Brook Oaks neighborhood, the location of the medical center, have a median annual income of $26,000, and nearly 80% of the patients the organization serves live below the federal poverty line, Griggs said. Medicare and Medicaid patients provide most of the center’s revenue.
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The morning session was marked by comments from Dr. Griggs, Chair of the Board of Directors of Family Medicine at Waco, Dr. Christine Padilla; Mike Hardin, Jr., president of the Waco Institute of Family Medicine and former director of the Family Medicine Program; Tom Stanton of the Waco Foundation for Family Medicine; Waco Mayor Dillon Meek and McLennan County Judge Scott Felton. Adding some excitement for celebrities are the Gaineses, creators of the popular TV series “Fixer Upper” and Magnolia, a large-scale business that includes retail, restaurants, real estate, a magazine and the Magnolia Network.
Speakers told the 200-plus crowd that the organization’s value to the community includes medical services provided to low-income residents; Family physicians have been trained in the highly competitive residency program; its innovations in healthcare delivery and programs; its place in Waco’s history and its role in the county’s economic development; and broad support.
The Gaineses added a personal touch, as he shared how Waco Family Medicine treated some of Chip’s injuries early in his career when finances were tight and insurance limited. Joanna also mentioned Dr. Tim McCall’s years as a family physician at Waco Family Medicine. McCall and his wife, Janice, are missionaries in Uganda, and on an early episode of “Fixer Upper,” the Gaines were renovating a home to stay in during their times in the States.
Chip Gaines challenged the community to support the center and the work of Waco Family Medicine.
“This is the place to donate and invest. We either show up or we don’t,” he said.
Griggs said the Gaines are a “game changer” for Waco and McLennan County, and they share with Waco Family Medicine a vision that “hope and family can be a place of healing, a space of happiness, a space of comfort in this crazy world.”
The eight speakers wore white construction hats and used shovels in the organization’s four colors to turn the topsoil in a box in a symbolic achievement of the project, which was publicly announced in July last year.
Del Baron, chief development officer, said Waco Family Medicine has raised about $30 million in pledges and donations for the facility’s $61 million cost, with another $18 million likely on the way. Leading the donations are two anonymous donations of between $2 million and $2.5 million, followed by pledges of $1 million from Dr. George Jurek, Shane Turner and Joe Bird. A press release for this pilot project says that the Gaineses have also contributed an unspecified amount to the project.
The City of Waco and McLennan County are each providing $2.5 million for the new building. Information about donating to the new center is available at wacofamilymedicine.org/donate.
Stanton said Ascension Providence, which owned the land on which the current building is located, has donated the land for the new facility. The front entrance will face the corner of Colcord Street and North 15th A Street, a shift that will allow direct patient access from Colcord Street. It also creates a corner green space that was a request from the community input session, said Erin Peeve, vice president at Dallas-based architecture firm HKS.
The building’s first floor is designed for community interaction, whether in medical services or in support of community social services and nonprofit organizations that address food insecurity, housing, transportation, legal aid, language assistance, and other issues. The covered portico space on the east side of the building will contain tables and chairs, allowing people to wait for friends and family inside as well as facilitating meetings and conversations.
Examination and treatment rooms, as well as offices, will fill floors two through four with dental services on the top floor of the glass-fronted building. Hardin said the dentist’s chairs would have the best view in town. The new facility will also include an educational kitchen, fitness center, and community garden.
The balcony-like, glass-fronted community spaces facing the neighborhood are meant to demonstrate the center’s engagement with the neighborhood and provide spaces for patients, doctors, and staff to recharge their spirits, Bevey said.
Since the announcement last summer of the new center, the estimated cost has increased from $51 million to $61 million. Hardin said the rising costs did not cause any fundamental changes to the design.
The construction of the building has been planned in phases that will allow continued use of the existing facility during the construction of the new building. The new building is expected to open in 2024.