In 2016, a vision at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) will unfold that advances the school’s goal of both improving education and enhancing the stability of the North St. Louis County community in which it is located.

Part of a more than $100 million investment to replace aging campus buildings, the $17 million Patient Care Center is the first phase of improvements to the Colleges of Optometry and Nursing.

The 48,000-square-foot facility, designed by HOK, begins a reshaping of UMSL’s south campus, creating a new gateway to the university’s district of professional schools south of Natural Bridge Road.

The project was initiated with a visioning session that engaged UMSL stakeholders early in the design process. By using model blocks to visualize building orientation, the team developed ideas on how to unite the entire campus. Ultimately, a plan emerged to site the buildings on the highest point on the south campus and create signage and pathways to connect the new gateway with the north campus, MetroLink mass transit, and parking.

As the only optometry program in Missouri and one of just 21 nationwide, UMSL also sought to modernize its facilities to continue attracting the best and brightest students. The new Patient Care Center will replace the existing University Eye Center located since 1980 at Marillac Hall, which was originally designed as a residence hall for nuns.

Specially designed for precepting students, the new facility provides space for clinical education and research as well as comprehensive eye and vision care. It includes four service clusters, including adult eye care, pediatric eye care, contact lens eye care, and primary healthcare. Each clinic will feature student-faculty consultation space and individual and group learning space, and promote collaboration between the students, faculty, and staff.

As part of UMSL’s long-standing community outreach, about 13,000 square feet of space is being programmed for partnership opportunities such as a walk-in clinic and dental care to serve disadvantaged families.

To accommodate both education and outreach needs, the facility was designed with flexibility in mind. Treatment rooms are same-handed and all the same size to facilitate adaption to future needs. The building’s two-story atrium will capture an abundance of natural light and offer clear wayfinding. A series of clerestory windows above each of the four service areas will allow natural light to reach inner corridors and spaces.

Future phases of construction will include an additional 200,000 square feet to collocate all teaching and learning, research, and administrative functions for the Colleges of Nursing and Optometry.

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