SANTA ROSA – Southwest Community Health Center signed an agreement to purchase a 42,500-square-foot Fountaingrove area building late last week in a nearly 40 percent expansion of its capacity, its largest to date.

“The need for a community health center of this magnitude is real, and that need keeps growing,” said Southwest Chief Executive Officer Naomi Fuchs.

“We receive 200 calls a week from people wanting to become new patients. Unfortunately, people often have to wait two to three months to get an appointment because of limited capacity.”

The federally qualified health center currently serves about 25,000 uninsured and underinsured patients a year from seven locations in Sonoma County. The need significantly increased this year, mostly due to the growing number of unemployed, according to officials. In the past three years, the organization’s patient load has nearly doubled going from 12,911 in 2006 to 24,576 today.

The building purchased in east Santa Rosa will allow Southwest to serve an additional 9,500 people.

The new location at 3569 Round Barn Circle is the second space addition this month after the nonprofit signed a lease agreement for about 2,500 square feet in a space owned by St. Joseph Health System. That site will allow the clinic to nearly double capacity in west Santa Rosa once it opens some time in the first half of next year.

Southwest will spend about $14.3 million for the purchase and renovation of the Round Barn building. Construction will take about a year with a tentative opening in fall 2010.

The deal led by developer Hugh Futrell Corp. will be financed through a combination of debt financing, federal grant revenue and community fundraising, including a continuing $2 million capital campaign.

The clinic will offer primary care, preventative medicine and health education services from the site in northeast Santa Rosa. Existing care centers also provide those services and others, including family planning and obstetrics, mental health services, nutrition, immunizations, STD and cancer screening, adult day health care, prenatal, pediatric, women’s services, health advocacy, outreach and some specialties.

The building constructed in 2005 is owned by Equity Office Properties. It is almost entirely vacant, except for a small suite occupied by the county. At its highest occupancy, about 25 percent of the building was leased. Previous tenants include Liberty Title, Bay View Bank and Modify Your Mortgage.

“We’ve been working on finding a suitable place to expand access to our services for over five years, and we’re thrilled and excited to be making this vision and dream a reality,” Ms. Fuchs said.

NAI BT Commercial represented Equity Office in the deal, and Keegan & Coppin Co. was the broker for the buyer.

NAI BT broker Jeff Negri said he expects the parties to finalize the deal near the beginning of next year.

“I think it was a win-win for the buyer and the seller. It was a great opportunity for the clinic, especially in today’s office market, and one that fit their geographic needs," he said.