Plans are in development for the construction of a 16-suite facility on the grounds of the VA Maine Healthcare Systems-Togus campus that would provide free lodging for caregivers of patients receiving treatment on campus.

The project will be funded by the Fisher House Foundation, which has 71 houses on 24 military installations and at 29 Veterans Affairs medical centers worldwide.

“It’s going to be such a wonderful addition to the campus,” said Jim Doherty, a public affairs officer at Togus. “We are very excited.”

The planned Fisher House, as it is called, will be a two-story, 13,400-square-foot structure featuring 16 fully equipped suites in a half-acre wooded area located along Pond Drive in the central portion of the campus across from the main hospital building. There also will be an adjacent parking lot with about 20 parking spaces.

Since 1990, Fisher Houses have provided a “home away from home” offering free lodging to caregivers of veterans and active-duty service members receiving treatment at a military installation or VA medical center. The nonprofit organization’s website states the group has served more than 300,000 families and saved them over $360 million since its inception almost 27 years ago.

Fisher House officials estimate the Togus facility will serve 500 families per year. It was identified by the organization as a priority site in 2011 because families and caregivers need to spend thousands of dollars on off-site lodging while their family members are hospitalized.

The Beals House on campus provided three rooms for visiting caregivers, but no children are allowed there and Togus doesn’t have any plans to expand the Beals House’s offerings. In a Fisher House, children of those receiving medical care can visit and stay, which officials say is an important part of the recovery process.

Doherty said he isn’t sure how much the Fisher House will cost, saying only that the cost will be “significant” because of all the amenities that are included.

“They’ll have stoves, refrigerators, laundry and all of that,” he said. “It’s going to be fabulous, and I can’t say enough good things about it.”

Togus plans to host a public meeting on the project at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the campus’s Theater Conference Room. Doherty said information about the Fisher House Foundation and the project will be provided, including a timeline. There also will be a question-and-answer session.

Togus officials do all the preparation work on the site before Fisher House’s own architects and construction crew design and build the facility. Doherty said it’s a “turn-key operation,” and once construction is complete, ownership will be transferred from the foundation to the VA, which will staff, operate and maintain the facility.

“The operating costs won’t be all that much,” Doherty said. “The most important thing is how great this is going to be for the vets and their families.”

One of the unique things about the Fisher House design process, Doherty said, is that no two rooms in the house will be the same. He said they have an interior designer who is sensitive to the local area and who doesn’t just ask for “16 of the same couches and 16 of the same beds.”

After the public meeting, Doherty said Togus will put the preparation work out to bid, and he said they hope to award the contract sometime in June or July. The preparation work at the site should take about six months, he said.

The Fisher House program was established by Zachary Fisher, a prominent New York City real estate developer and philanthropist, and his wife, Elizabeth. The first Fisher House opened in June 1990 at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Three Fisher Houses are under construction — in Houston; Orlando, Florida; and Charleston, South Carolina — and the organization has identified and recognized the need for an additional 30 houses around the world, in locations including Japan, Louisiana and Florida.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

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Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ