Carilion Clinic unveiled plans Tuesday for what it called a world-class cancer center in Roanoke, kicking off a fundraising campaign with a $1 million contribution from President and CEO Nancy Agee and her husband Steven Agee.

The four-story building would stand at the corner of Franklin Road and Reserve Avenue, marking the western entrance to a rapidly growing health care and technology campus that includes Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC.

The pace of fundraising that follows the Agees’ gift will determine how quickly the $75 million to $100 million center will be built.

“We are starting from scratch,” Nancy Agee said. The hope is that within four years, she said, the region will have an innovative facility that enhances cancer care with leading research and clinical trials for local patients, delivered in a warm and caring environment.

“This would put us on par with anyone,” she said.

The Agees decided to jumpstart the fundraising campaign with a $1 million donation to honor those who have fought cancer — both on a personal and professional front.

“We hope that this ‘seed’ gift will inspire our community to advance cancer care in our region for generations to come,” said Steven Agee, who serves as a judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

During her 40-year career with Carilion, Nancy Agee worked as a certified nurse and clinical nurse specialist in oncology before going into administration. Her father died from cancer, she said, and her husband is a survivor.

“Cancer care has long held a special place in my heart,” she said.

The fundraising campaign, the first of its kind in decades for Carilion, is separate from a $1 billion investment announced in May to fund capital improvements over the next seven years.

Nancy Agee said the first round of that spending is for an expansion of Roanoke Memorial that ranked high on the priority list of must-do improvements. That project will include a new tower for the treatment of emergency and heart patients, a new psychiatric center, a parking garage and a pedestrian skywalk.

The cancer center, by comparison, is more of an aspirational goal to take the health care system to a new level.

“Putting all of the pieces together will bring a lot of vibrance and vitality to the region, and undoubtedly, that will continue,” Agee said.

The current oncology staff and employees at the Carilion Clinic Cancer Center, which opened 40 years ago, will play a key role in the new center and were briefed on the plans Tuesday morning before the announcement was made.

Carilion plans to recruit new talent to work at the center. Details on how many new hires, as well as the exact size and dimensions of the building, have yet to be worked out.

Conceptual renderings show a brick-and-glass structure that matches other new architecture on the Carilion campus.

The grassy lot used to host the old Naval Reserve building, which was previously owned by the city of Roanoke and was used as a maintenance facility for the school system. Carilion acquired it in 2015 through a land swap with the city, which in return got the health system’s old Gill Memorial building on Jefferson Street. That building now houses the RAMP business accelerator.

The Naval Reserve building was destroyed by fire in 2016.

Carilion officials said the new center will further enhance Roanoke’s role as a health innovation hub, while strengthening its bond with Virginia Tech.

“Over the years, the partnership between Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic has enhanced specialty medical services in our region, as talented physicians and researchers work side by side to solve our greatest health care challenges,” Tech President Tim Sands said in a statement.

“Thanks to the leadership and generosity of people like Nancy and Steve Agee, cancer research and treatment will advance in our region.”

To make a contribution to the center, donors can visit the Carilion Clinic Foundation website and click on the “donate now” button.

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Laurence Hammack covers environmental issues, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and business and enterprise stories. He has been a reporter for The Roanoke Times for more than three decades.

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