Akron Children’s has completed the second and third phases of a multi-year, multi-million-dollar renovation and expansion of Rehabilitative Services, one of the hospital’s busiest departments with children of all ages participating in audiology, speech, occupational and physical therapy.
The new space, which opened to patients Dec. 6, dramatically refreshens and brightens a large portion of the second floor of the main hospital. Much of space comes from the former NICU and space gained by adding 22,000 square feet to the front of the hospital.
“We love the bright colors and sunshine that we will now have in these patient care spaces, but, most of all, we are excited that this project will allow us to serve many more children,” said Chris Gessner, president and CEO of Akron Children’s. “We are projecting a 34 percent increase in rehab visits over the next three years.”
The project reworks the main entrance of the hospital on Bowery Street and greatly improves the patient wayfinding experience for families bringing their children for therapy sessions. Parents of patients with mobility challenges will be able to drive up to the door and bring their children into department, avoiding longer walks across pedestrian bridges.
“In many regards, we are matching here at our main campus some of the nice features we’ve added at our regional health centers,” said Chris Kwee, director of Rehabilitative Services. “We added four large group spaces, such as an adolescent gym with a regulation-size half-court basketball hoop, toddler and infant gyms, a realistic track (think track & field) that kids love and a large sensory integration room that kids view as a giant playground but is actually just a fun, child-friendly place to develop their skills.”
The therapists gain 33,000 square feet: 23 new treatment rooms, workrooms, as well as much needed space for key types of equipment, such as a bodyweight support system used in physical therapy for children having difficulty putting weight through their legs.
The expansion also includes a new “inclusive” outdoor playground that was especially designed for use in therapy and for children with all abilities.
Like all Akron Children’s interiors, the space was designed “Through the Eyes of a Child,” with colorful wall art created by children themselves, interactive features, and whimsical touches.
Planning for the second and third phases of the renovation began in 2019 with a team of providers, front-line staff, architects and administrators who visited other children’s hospitals, participated in multiple brainstorming sessions and applied the quality-focused but cost-saving principles of Lean Design to the process. The $14 million project spanned a year of construction. Hasenstab Architects, BWK Engineering, and Thomarios Construction were key partners.
“Philanthropy played a major role in making this project happen,” said Shelly Brown, executive director of the Akron Children’s Foundation and vice president of Development. “The support for this hospital and families we serve is a defining characteristic of our community as evidenced by the $4 million we raised for this phase of the project. We are so grateful for the generosity of all of our donors committed to healthy futures for today’s patients.”
Among the lead donors:
- The Women’s Board of Akron Children’s Lobby
- Inclusive Playground
- The Landon and Cynthia Knight Gymnasium
First Energy Foundation
- The First Energy Foundation Outpatient Rehabilitation Welcome and Check-In Center
MPB Charitable Foundation
- The MPB Charitable Foundation Pediatric Gym
Rehab Services offers critical services with cross benefit to nearly every other hospital department, from children suffering traumatic injuries to those with developmental delays and those regaining skills after surgery or lengthy hospitalizations.
“Gaining this space allows us to potentially hire additional therapists and improve our capacity to reduce our waitlists,” said Kwee. “We think the beautiful design and easy access of this space – especially for families who have several therapy appointments in one week – will be a huge satisfier for our patients.”