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ORLANDO-After receiving only three bid offers at its Oct. 3 deadline, the Department of Veteran Affairs has expanded the deadline for another month in its search for a 100-acre site to develop a $350-million medical center for Central Florida’s 380,000 veterans.

Representatives of the 2,900-acre International Corporate Park, the 1,800-acre Lake None mixed-use community and the University of Central Florida were the only bidders who met the October deadline, staffers in the office of Robert Neary, acting chief facilities management officer for the VA, tell GlobeSt.com.

After 21 years of political bickering, indecision and budget cuts, the VA once again is scouting Central Florida for a planned 120-bed hospital, 60-bed assisted living facility, a veterans’ nursing home and a benefits center. Earlier this year, the agency was unanimous in going ahead with plans for a 40-acre, 120-bed, $150-million hospital at Baldwin Park, a newly developed mixed-use community three miles east of Downtown Orlando.

But with the area’s veterans’ population growing rapidly, the VA cancelled the Baldwin Park plans and began looking for a larger location, brokers familiar with the federal land search tell GlobeSt.com. Orlando is considered to be the only large metro area in the US without a VA hospital, according to the Central Florida Veterans Association. Metro-area veterans seeking medical attention travel 80 miles west to Tampa or 90 miles northwest to Gainesville where VA hospitals are located.

The timeline for the agency’s hospital plans began in 1983, according to GlobeSt.com research. The Veterans Administration, now the Department of Veterans Affairs, selected Central Florida for a new hospital site. But it wasn’t until 1998 that a search began for sites. Four years later, the Republican Party administration of former President George H.W. Bush picked Orange County for the hospital site. Orlando is the dominant city in Orange County.

But when Democrat Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992, his administration changed the Orlando area site to the new town of Viera in Brevard County, 60 miles south of Downtown Orlando. Brevard is considered part of the Central Florida population area. In 1995, however, federal budget cuts sliced the hospital plan to an outpatient clinic plan. The Brevard clinic opened in 1997.

In 2003, the VA again considered plans for a full-service hospital in metro Orlando and in 2004 a VA facility commission formally picked Orlando as the site.

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