ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. - A local hospital is making a big effort to improve health care for children and improve the economy.
Carilion is planning to consolidate its outpatient pediatric offerings into a new center in what once was JCPenney at Tanglewood Mall in Roanoke County.
That space in the mall has been empty since June 2017, when JCPenney closed for good.
Carilion announced Thursday that the children's pediatric facility will open in about 18 to 24 months and will cost around $30 million.
This move is part of a larger plan to revamp Tanglewood Mall and the surrounding 419 area.
Developers said Carilion was their first target after purchasing the property a few years ago. Work is expected to begin this winter.
The pediatric services center will take up about 20 percent of the mall -- about 150,000 square feet.
Representatives from Carilion, Roanoke County and the company that owns the mall were all there for the announcement Thursday.
Roanoke County Board of Supervisors Chairman Phil North said while the county did not have a children's pediatric center in mind when conceptual drawings for the redevelopment came out last year, this type of development is exactly what the county had in mind.
"We can also see other small businesses coming in in the area and I think with Carilion being here now, that's probably going to attract some interest on behalf of, maybe, pharmacies or restaurants," North said.
Roanoke County mother Meredith Burrow said having the center will be "huge".
Getting her 6 year old daughter, Meg, to all her doctor appointments can be a challenge sometimes.
"Sometimes, Meg has multiple appointments in one day. We may be in one building and you unload her pack her up and we go the next building. You're constantly running," Burrow said. "So having everything in one location is going to help the transition be much easier. Also, if there's any kind of problem and we need to see another specialist immediately, you're going to have them right here."
John Abernathy, CEO of the company that owns the mall, said Carilion was the company's first target after the company bought the mall a couple of years ago.
"As we came in, we decided we wanted to change this from a retail property to a mixed-use property," Abernathy said.
He says Carilion's facility in the mall is a perfect fit for a modern day mixed-use facility, pointing out the mall is next to retail space, a theater and a grocery store.
"When you talk about mixed-use centers in today's world, that's what you here: Grocery, entertainment, medical, employee base. That's what Carilion's doing today with this announcement," Abernathy said.
Carilion Children's Senior Vice President Kimberly Dunsmore said the new center in the mall sets the hospital up for success in the future.
"Not only (success with) pediatric services but other services, and looking at this as a way to deliver healthcare in the future," Dunsmore emphasized. "But, I also think it shows Carilion's commitment to the community, and particularly the children of our community."
Carilion had not decided as of Wednesday which pediatric service will be located in teh center.
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