Community Health

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has signed off on a proposal to build a new Louisville VA hospital off of Brownsboro Road.

In the Record of Decision published last week and made public Friday, the VA said the agency had narrowed the list of suitable sites to the Brownsboro Road site and one on Factory Lane in far East Louisville.

“The Brownsboro Site is located in closer proximity to the University of Louisville Hospital in downtown Louisville and thus would better facilitate continued collaboration between that facility and the VAMC,” the VA wrote in the Record of Decision.

“Its more central location is also closer to Veterans and VAMC employees living in other parts of the Louisville Metro are (e.g., west and south), and it offers more direct access via multiple interstates and major roads for those Veterans coming from other parts of the service area.”

The hospital will replace the Robley Rex VA Medical Center on Zorn Avenue.

The VA’s decision follows years of controversy swirling around the project. In 2010, then-Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson and former University of Louisville President James Ramsey backed moving the hospital downtown, next to University Hospital, citing its proximity to transportation, hotels and restaurants. But in 2012, the VA bought the site off Brownsboro Road for nearly $13 million.

The Office of Inspector General later concluded the agency may have overpaid by more than $3 million for the property.

Since then, the project has been in a holding pattern. In 2014, the VA conducted a draft environmental assessment of the site. Last year, the agency conducted a more thorough environmental review, which concluded the Brownsboro Road sit would have the smallest environmental impact.

Mayor Greg Fischer raised concerns about the proposed location last December. But on Friday, Fischer said he was glad to see a major step taken in the process.

“What we don’t know right now is what they’re going to do with the Record of Decision,” he said. “There will be a few changes. They’ve downsized a little bit which reduces the size of the parking, which a lot of people had an issue with as well. But the important thing is veterans have been waiting for a hospital in our community for quite some time. So the VA’s made its final decision, we’ll be supportive with them and ready to roll.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement Friday afternoon praising the announcement:

“I have long been a major advocate for a new VA medical center in Louisville, and helped secure the initial funds for the project. Our veterans who have served our country so bravely deserve to receive quality health care in a new, modern facility and they have been waiting since 2006 for this medical center to be built. That is way too long. Today’s announcement moves us one step closer. It’s time to build the new facility.”

Congressman John Yarmuth also issued a statement welcoming the decision by the VA.

“Since helping secure funding for this project nearly a decade ago, my two main priorities have been ensuring that area veterans will be able to benefit from the state-of-the-art hospital as soon as possible, and that Louisville residents have their voices fully heard at every step,” he wrote.

“I’m glad that this thorough review process has been completed and I look forward to continuing to work with all the stakeholders as this important project finally moves forward.”

This story has been updated.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Assignment Editor.