Space for the Second Century

Acquiring a new space at 4480 Clayton Avenue

by Michele Berhorst  • November 18, 2021

Jessica Romeo, course coordinator, in the new space at 4480 Clayton Ave.

In 1995, the Program in Occupational Therapy had outgrown its home at 4567 Scott Ave., where it had resided for 66 years. Its research, education and clinical care expanded, so it was time to find a new home with room to grow.

So faculty and staff packed up files, computers, office supplies, equipment and furniture and moved to 4444 Forest Park Ave. Since then, the Program more than tripled its footprint in occupying space that housed the computing facilities and training classrooms for Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Fast-forward 25 years, and the Program once again had outgrown its space. "When I took on the responsibility of directing the Program in 2019, I heard loudly and clearly from faculty and staff the need for more contemporary physical spaces to support our research and education missions more directly," says Lisa Tabor Connor, PhD, MSOT, OTR/L. "Also, our students needed to be more integrated with the central services of the School of Medicine's campus, which continues to expand as well."

Program leadership worked collaboratively with Elizabeth Kohl, AIA, FMP, director of architectural planning, and Melissa Hopkins, FMP, SFP, associate vice chancellor and associate dean of facilities operations, to find a new space to meet the current and future needs of the Program. After more than a year of discussions, negotiations and planning, a solution emerged that would provide the space needed for the Program to thrive and grow for decades to come.

"Space at the 4480 Clayton Ave. building was a perfect fit for the Program's needs. The 62,000-square-foot building renovated in 2018 is located on Clayton Avenue and S. Taylor Avenue. The 14,400-square-foot first-floor suite has easy access from the street. The open floor plan has 73 workstations with natural light, new furniture and 10 private offices. In addition, the three conference rooms are fully equipped with audiovisual technology including cameras, ceiling microphones, screens, computers and more," explains Kohl.

In July 2021, our Research and Education Division faculty and supporting staff moved into 4480 Clayton Ave., allowing them to integrate into the campus core and use other campus support and educational spaces, further expanding the Program's resource footprint. Several, but not all, research laboratories also moved into the new space. Program leadership, administrative staff and OT Services clinical offices (on the second floor) remained in the 4444 Forest Park Ave. location. Teaching spaces in that building will also stay the same, but faculty will also be holding classes in the medical school's various shared teaching and meeting spaces. Rudo Gray, FMP, associate director of education services and technology, explains.

"There are several newly renovated teaching spaces that are now available for curricular needs. Resources include an 80-person computer training room with standard audiovisual equipment in McDonnell Sciences that can be set up as a traditional classroom or a lab setting. In addition, the Cori and Erlanger team-based classrooms support new teaching pedagogy and have state-of-the-art interactive audiovisual systems," Gray says. "The Becker Library and campus common areas were also recently renovated to provide several options for student study spaces including open group study, smaller private group study, individual study, a quiet lounge and numerous sitting spaces."

Now that the move is complete and the 2021 fall semester is underway, faculty and students can have more innovative and interactive educational experiences in the new spaces. "The COVID-19 pandemic has made us all acutely aware of the role technology, and remote learning, has in our curriculum. Conversely, not being able to conduct fully in-person learning for an entire year has given us a new perspective on the group and experiential learning activities that cannot be replicated in a virtual setting," Connor says. "Moving to 4480 and becoming more integrated with the world-class medical center we are located within will only provide richer, more robust learning experiences for our students moving forward."

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