FHCN expands footprint in downtown Visalia

Family HealthCare Network is building a new site on Bridge Street and remodeling another on Main Street

VISALIA – After decades of reaching into new communities in Tulare, Kings and Fresno counties, Family HealthCare Network is now growing closer to its center.

The federally qualified health center (FQHC) is planning to construct a new 23,500-square foot administrative building with a 4,000-square foot garage and a half block parking lot at Bridge Street and School Avenue. The two-story office will house about 100 employees and will provide more space for FHCN’s information technology department and call center. FHCN CEO Kerry Hydash said the FQHC normally gets about 2,000 calls per day but of late has been fielding between 7,000 and 8,000 calls per day, primarily due to COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.

“There continues to be a high demand and a need for access to primary care, especially during COVID,” Hydash said.

The new office will be between two existing FHCN clinics on Bridge at Oak Avenue and another at Murray Avenue. FHCN will also be opening another new site in downtown. The healthcare network bought the Town Plaza building, 114 W. Main St., and is remodeling it for a variety of uses. Formerly home to downtown mainstay Picnic Sandwiches which closed in 2019, Hydash said the second floor will be administrative office space, while the ground floor will keep a retail space for a local restaurant, or possibly a demonstration kitchen, as well as a small bookstore to expand FHCN’s literacy program. For years, FHCN has had reading corners in its clinics, reading to pediatric patients in its waiting rooms and encouraged literacy throughout the communities where they are located. The bookstore might even include a small café run by a local business.

“There are a lot of ideas about what to do there,” Hydash said. “We certainly don’t want to replicate or compete with any business in the community.”

FHCN already has its corporate headquarters at the corner of Bridge and Center Avenue, which covers a city block in downtown. Hydash said many of the new offices are for staff which support the clinical sites but aren’t administrative positions. She said FHCN has been growing pretty steadily but had not started to address the need for more office space until recently. FHCN added sites in Visalia and Fresno last year and in Farmersville in 2019. By this time next year, Hydash expects FHCN to have 47 sites, 44 of which will be clinics in 21 communities across three counties.

FHCN isn’t the only healthcare organization planning to expand in downtown. Kaweah Health plans to reopen discussions in the community on building a new medical tower at its downtown campus. The hospital district is looking for buy-in from the public who’ll be asked to support a bond to help finance it. The new tower would replace the old hospital wing that doesn’t meet seismic standards. The board may make some design decisions on alternate plans in December.

In 2016 Kaweah Delta went to the voters in Tulare County asking them to pass Measure H, a bond measure to the tune of $327 million for expanding their medical facilities, which failed by a large margin. The Medical Center pivoted and instead largely funded the project with $100 million in tax exempt revenue bonds it issued to investors in 2015, the difference being the principal and interest will be repaid by the hospital’s revenues rather than Tulare County residents. Also mentioned in the language of Measure H was funding to replace patient areas not meeting earthquake safety standards required by California law, which would render the main building on Mineral King Avenue obsolete by 2030.

While many restaurants are struggling to find staff and keep the doors open, Sequoia Brewing Company plans to expand into the space next door, 120 W. Main St., and remodel it into a new banquet room. The space was formerly the location of Japanese food restaurant Tachibana. The brewery, bar and restaurant offers 16 craft beers on tap and an extensive menu of pub food and already offers catering and buffet options. Sequoia Brewing has two locations in Fresno and one in Visalia.

Retail roundup

Visalia Mall has snagged a new tenant—Windsor—leasing the former Charlotte Russe, a 3,400-square foot space. The new store features trendy apparel and accessories for young women, including special-occasion dresses, jeans and basics. Opening is scheduled for Nov. 1. Tommy’s Car Wash got the green light from the Planning Commission to build a new automated car wash at the Donahue Schreiber-owned Orchard West shopping center at Riggin Avenue and Dinuba Boulevard where In-N-Out and El Pollo Loco are building.

A new Starbucks drive-thru will be built at 224 N. Plaza Dr., according to a plan submitted to the city. Panda Express wants to build a new drive thru at the southeast corner of Mooney and Visalia Parkway in the new center there with Texas Roadhouse and Dutch Bros coffee. Jack In The Box wants to build a new drive-thru at the northwest corner of East Tulare Avenue and South Lovers Lane. The project will get a hearing at the Planning Commission Monday, Aug. 23, 2021 at 7 p.m. The restaurant will have no indoor dining.

City news

The Visalia City Council is expected to take up a plan to retire some city-owned land currently leased to ag users in a move to save water. The potential is to retire some 500 acres of land that would be fallowed or put to some other use that does not use a lot of water like erecting solar panels. Plots being considered are at the end of the airport runway and the northwest corner of Caldwell and 99.

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