The ribbon was cut last week at the new Capitol Heights Medical Center, the first major renovation project in the town's two-year-old state enterprise zone. It is the town's only clinic.

Located in a renovated warehouse at Central and Chambers avenues, the center is run by Southern Maryland Hospital Center of Clinton and charges moderate prices for general medical services, town officials said. Capitol Heights is a largely working-class town of about 3,500 residents.

Town Manager Ralph Lange said the town currently has only one other doctor's office, and the nearest hospital, Prince George's County General in Cheverly, is about five miles away.

"Capitol Heights has needed a health facility for years. We're hoping to get more medical professionals in the town," Lange said.

The medical center is part of the the city's 70-acre state enterprise zone, in which tax breaks and employe tax credits are offered to developers who make improvements. Quik Concrete Construction Co. renovated the warehouse and the top floor was leased by Southern Maryland Hospital.

The clinic is open from noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays. One physician is on duty, along with a nurse, a lab and X-ray technician and a receptionist.

Several doctors from Southern Maryland Hospital who specialize in obstetrics/gynecology, neurology, orthopedics, pediatrics, ophthalmology and urology will rotate duties at the clinic on Wednesdays.

Dr. Francis Chiaramonte, founder of the hospital and organizer of the clinic, said that the size of the staff and the hours of operation will expand at demand increases. He said the clinic also plans to offer educational health sessions and women's health screenings.

"Everybody deserves quality health care and that's what the people in Capitol Heights are missing. There is also a tremendous need for preventative health care in this area," Chiaramonte said.

Lange said the tax breaks offered in the enterprise zone allow businesses such as the medical center to offer services more inexpensively and create jobs. He said the zone offers an 80 percent tax break on assessed property improvements over five years as well as $500 employe tax credits on new hires as incentives for developers to build in run-down areas.

Lange said that Quik Concrete spent about $400,000 to renovate the building and Southern Maryland Hospital spent about $600,000 on improvements and equipment.

Lange said the town began experiencing economic troubles during the 1960s after the newly built East Capitol Street detoured traffic around the city, forcing many of the businesses along previously heavily traveled Central Avenue to close. The detour pushed the town to the verge of collapse.

The Metro Blue Line rapid rail station that opened in the town in 1980 rescued Capitol Heights, Lange said. Officials hope the enterprise zone will help to revamp the Central Avenue business district as well as attract professionals into a commercial development around the subway stop. Quik Concrete also plans to build a day-care center on a portion of Central Avenue that is not included in the enterprise zone.