Facility planned to open in 2011; part  of $15.5 million expansion

[caption id="attachment_22080" align="alignright" width="269" caption="Petaluma Health Center purchased this 53,000-square-foot building at 1179 N. McDowell Blvd."][/caption]

PETALUMA -- Six months after Petaluma Health Center landed $8.9 million in federal economic-stimulus money to outfit a nearby office building as a much larger clinic, the health center secured $5.85 million in state bonding and a private grant to buy that building.

On June 2, Petaluma Health Center purchased the 53,000-square-foot former Personal Stamp Exchange building at 1179 N. McDowell Blvd. from a partnership led by Equity Office for $4.71 million, or about $90 a square foot, according to Kathie Powell, chief executive officer of the 16-year-old nonprofit health center.

"Right now, we should be operating in 25,000 square feet for the services we provide," she said. The health center currently occupies 15,000 square feet at 1301 Southpoint Blvd. "We'll move in with current services into half the new building and the other half will allow us to double in size."

The new health center opening is now targeted for June 1, 2011, instead of November of this year when the renovation funding was secured in December, she said. Redwood City-based DES Architects designed the renovation, and construction bids are being coordinated via former Basin Street Properties construction manager Daryl Johnson.

When the new health center does open, the number of patient visits is expected to double from the current 75,000 a year. The current facility accommodates patients by using group patient sessions, modular office space in the parking lot and sharing areas when not in use.

The number of health providers is expected to double from 30 medical and dental professionals, adding 90 employees to the current total staff of more than 100.

The building purchase was funded by a tax-exempt bond backed by Cal-Mortgage, a division of the state Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, or OSHPD. The $5 million loan has a 5.5 percent average interest rate and 30-year term. The new facility will be a class 3 OSHPD-approved clinic serving 30,000 people in the city.

Minneapolis-based UnitedHealth Group gave the health center a $632,000 grant to cover bond-issuance costs and purchased the bond, according to Ms. Powell.

The total project is expected to cost $15.5 million. The new facility will have more room for three or four dentists instead of one now, a pharmacy, commercial kitchen with grocery store mockup for teaching up to 15 patients at a time how to eat more healthfully and shop for cost-effective fresh foods.

Petaluma Bounty, which currently sells fruits and vegetables in the parking lot of the clinic once a week, will have a small garden to supply patients.

"People with chronic diseases tend to have lifestyles where they eat a lot of processed foods," Ms. Powell said.

The health center has been getting inquiries from family practice physicians nationwide about joining because of organization's evolving focus on long-term behavioral changes such as reducing stress and anxiety.

Also to be part of the new health center will be the county's Women, Infants & Children office in Petaluma, currently located at City Hall on the west side of Highway 101. The two organizations serve similar people and offer some of the same services such as lactation training, Ms. Powell said.

"Considering demographics, we think WIC will double in size, because most of their clients are patients of ours," she said.

Tony Sarno of Keegan & Coppin represented Petaluma Health Center in the building purchase.