Kaweah Health considers building housing in downtown for staff

Medical center says it is looking into developing residential units in downtown buildings to house its visiting physician residents and medical students

VISALIA – Kaweah Health is hoping to take up residence in residential units downtown, or at least their physician residents are. 

Chief Strategy Officer Marc Mertz said Kaweah Health is looking to acquire residential units in the Downtown Visalia area to accommodate their physician residents and visiting medical students.Among the options are talks about developing the vacant Main St Theatre into residential units. The theater could make for an ideal location as it backs up to a city parking garage and is just a few blocks from Kaweah Health’s medical complex. Other second story Downtown properties are in play as well.

“We have been looking at options to acquire or develop residential property in downtown for a couple of years,” Mertz said. “We are looking at several options, including the (Main St) theater” but said no deals are in place. 

JR Shannon’s Legacy Investments bought the theater from the city in 2018 for $515,000. Shannon originally proposed to use the building for a large concept restaurant and later discussed splitting the building between commercial and residential tenants. Mertz said the lack of new construction and inventory of existing homes has made finding affordable residential property difficult. 

“As you know, the real estate market has been heating up in Tulare County, and these learners often struggle to find affordable housing,” Mertz said.  

Residents, or medical doctors and specialists who have their medical degree and are gaining experience at a hospital, spend between 1 and 5 years in Visalia, depending on their specialty. Mertz said Kaweah Health Medical Center is currently hosting 130 residents. 

Medical students, those who have a four year degree but have yet to graduate from postgraduate medical school, are typically here for just four to six weeks. Mertz said Kaweah Health has an affiliation with the University of Southern California to complete their clinical rotations while other schools, like UC Davis, have less formal partnerships. 

“These rotations are a great opportunity for us to show them that Kaweah and Visalia are great places for them to consider when choosing their residency,” Mertz said. “Having safe, convenient, affordable temporary housing for these individuals would benefit all involved.”

Mertz said he hopes medical schools will help fund the development of the residential units but said Kaweah Health will also be exploring state and federal grants to offset the cost of construction.

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