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Visiting Nurses Association creating permanent home in Sycamore area

BY MICHELLE KIM | APRIL 23, 2013 5:00 AM

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With Von Maur’s farewell coming in July, the community surrounding Sycamore Mall will have one fewer business. However, the arrival of the Visiting Nurse Association on Sycamore Street may be a sign of revitalization of the Sycamore area.

The association, a nonprofit organization that provides health services throughout Johnson County, is expected to have its new building completed in August at 1524 Sycamore St., moving from its current location at 2953 Sierra Court S.W.

The association was established in 1949 by a group of officials in Iowa City who believed there was a need in the community.

The Visiting Nurse Association's mission is to assist individuals and families to reach the highest level of health and independent living. The group serves residents of Johnson County of all ages and all income levels.

Iowa City awarded a portion of the funding for the construction project after a competitive grant application process.

“We provided $230,000 to the [nurse association] in the Iowa City Community Development Block Grant fund, so it could relocate with the currently releasing space,” said Steven Long, the city planning and community development coordinator.

Explained in a letter written by Suellen Novotny, the executive director of the Visiting Nurse Association, they are collaborating with the UI nursing school to provide nurse practitioners for outpatient services in the new building.

Last year, with the support of its 51 staff members — nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and home-care aides — the group made 21,045 visits to 805 individuals in Johnson County.

With the funding from the block grant, the nurse group sought out a permanent location.

The members determined that the cost of purchasing and renovating the old building would be no different from new construction.

In fact, it could have been even more expensive than investing in the brand new building.

Based on the cost analysis the association conducted in 2010, the cost of the new building would be $950,000, and the organization would be able to save at least $44,000 per year by owning its own building.

Kirk White, the general manager of Sycamore Mall, said Von Maur’s replacement would come in July and there would be several inquiries into that space.

He also said the members of the nurse association would be able to make use of their daily needs at the mall because of the proximity.

“Those folks will need some place to have lunch … or perhaps after work, and we have the entertainment [at the mall],” he said.

Iowa City officials were encouraged to work with the association and believe its new location near the Sycamore Mall is a suitable place for business owners.

“The Visiting Nurse Association is making an investment in the area, and the city is paying investment into roads to service that area,” Ford said.

“Sycamore Mall space is one of the more attractive and affordable places for businesses to locate.”

Iowa City economic-development coordinator Wendy Ford said she was concerned about Von Maur moving out, but a new tenant could restore vitality to the mall’s business.

“There’s going to be a void created by the Von Maur store leaving,” she said. “We’re really hoping that the mall management is able to attract retail operations that would fill the whole left by Von Maur.

“That could be done by retailers and the city, and depending on the quality of the business they attract, the city would be willing to help whatever they could.”


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