The entrance is marked by a block-long garden with outdoor "rooms" and a circular labyrinth where therapists can work with patients learning to use a wheelchair or walk with a cane.
The main lobby features a mini-aquarium and lounge where teens can shoot pool or play Wii games. The top floor is a light-filled aquatic center containing swimming pools with underwater treadmills and hydraulic lifts.
These are a few of the features of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building, a $35 million, state of the art outpatient center that the Kennedy Krieger Institute is opening this spring as part of an effort to improve and expand services to children and young adults with developmental disabilities and spinal cord injuries.
FOR THE RECORD - An article in Wednesday's editions misstated the number of employees at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore. It is 2,600.
The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.
The six-story, 115,000-square-foot building at 801 N. Broadway is the first of two structures that Kennedy Krieger will open this spring in East Baltimore, along with a $20 million, four-story clinical research building nearing completion at 716 N. Broadway.
On May 28, institute leaders will hold a ceremony to dedicate the first building and announce the successful completion of a $55 million campaign to fund the expansion. Besides the Weinberg Foundation, which gave $7.15 million, major donors include Arthur and Pat Modell and Fred and Farideh Mirmiran.
For institute president Gary Goldstein, the openings mark the end of a 15-year effort to grow beyond a 1960s-era building at 707 N. Broadway and bring Kennedy Krieger's facilities up to the level of care offered by the institute's staff. He said the new outpatient building, particularly, was designed to send "a very positive message" about Kennedy Krieger and the work it does.
Unlike hospitals that offer a full range of patient care, Kennedy Krieger focuses on providing aggressive treatment for children and young adults with autism, cerebral palsy, and brain and spinal cord injuries.
"This is our mission," he said. "This is what we do, so we wanted to make the most of it. Our program is rare enough that we get patients from all over the country and all over the world. The building sends the message, along with the staff and the program, that this is a very different place."
The design team, led by Stanley Beaman & Sears of Atlanta as the architect and Mahan Rykiel Associates of Baltimore as the landscape architect, made a strong effort to create spaces that are open and full of natural light.
"Light promotes hope," said architect Veronique Pryor. "The whole idea behind this building is the idea that one day the patients will get better. We really wanted it to be uplifting."
Founded in 1937 by Dr. Winthrop Phelps as the Children's Rehabilitation Institute in Cockeysville, the institute moved to Broadway in 1967 and was renamed the Kennedy Institute, after former President John F. Kennedy. In 1992, it became the Kennedy Krieger Institute, adding the name of philanthropist Zanvyl Krieger.
Today it has 1,700 employees and is internationally recognized, serving more than 13,000 people a year through inpatient and outpatient clinics, home and community services and school-based programs. Fifteen percent of its patients come from outside Maryland.
The Weinberg building is expected to give Kennedy Krieger the capacity to serve 25 percent more patients a year. It already has boosted morale among patients and staff, who began moving in less than a month ago.
"Being here is so much livelier," said activities specialist Kassandra Ford. "It's open. There's more room. We have a garden now. Kids can go outside. I look at the expressions on patients' faces - they're elated."
"The staff and patients are so thrilled, I can't tell you," said Lainy Lebow-Sachs, senior vice president of external relations. "Even though we're dealing with disabilities of children ... the sense of joy is everywhere. It's a very happy place."