Representatives from the community, students and educators gathered in late August to celebrate the opening of the new St. Louis Community College (STLCC) Center for Nursing and Health Sciences – the first new building at the STLCC-Forest Park campus in 20 years. Minority-owned KAI Enterprises and Tarlton Corp., both based in St. Louis, are credited with the design and construction of the state-of-the-art facility.
The four-level, 96,000-square-foot learning center sits along Oakland Avenue, a highly visible location as 150,000 vehicles pass by it daily on adjacent I-64. KAI’s designers used the busy site to create a much-needed, new “front door” for the campus. The KAI team also provided technical services necessary to build the facility to achieve a LEED v4 Silver certification.
“We are really excited about the Center for Nursing and Health Sciences. The new building creates an opportunity to expand learning and career preparation for students in nursing, dental assisting, surgical technology and many other programs,” said Dr. Jeff L. Pittman, chancellor, St. Louis Community College. “We’re looking forward to a bright future for our students, and to increasing our impact on workforce development in the community.”
The building’s exterior is comprised of brick and metal panels, solar glass and shading, and an illuminated section. The building serves as a welcoming point for vehicle and pedestrian traffic from Oakland Avenue through to the campus.
“It’s an architecturally significant campus, so the design needed to be forward-thinking and also respectful of the context,” said KAI Project Architect Carl Karlen. “It’s a modern building that houses a modern program. The building needed to perform in its current use and for the future and respond to the existing materials used on campus.”
KAI held workshops with the college’s administration, staff and faculty to finalize a design programmed to closely meet the needs of the end user. Interior spaces were designed for flexibility so they could be transformed into different functions in the future. Spaces include a dental clinic, surgical technology laboratories, teaching labs, classrooms, computer rooms, study areas, lounges, conference rooms and office suites.
KAI Senior Interior Designer Terry Crotty described the building’s interior as contemporary with white walls and punches of accent colors including green, blue, purple, orange, fuchsia and yellow used on the furniture, lockers and walls. According to Crotty, the LEED v4 requirements called for the use of lightly colored, highly reflective materials on the floors, ceilings and work surfaces. Natural, neutral materials were used in the permanent structures and include a wood accent wall in the lobby and wood floors and cabinets.
The building’s interior design also provides opportunities for studying in groups or individually in unexpected spaces such as seating niches in the corridors, bean bag chairs and nesting tables.
“We incorporated different types of seating arrangements that allow for different types of postures,” said Crotty.
The new structure consolidates the Forest Park campus’ existing Allied Health programs (Nursing, Respiratory Care, Clinical Laboratory Technology, Surgical Technology, Dental Hygiene and Assisting, Radiologic Technologies, and Diagnostic Medical Sonography), plus relocates the EMT/Paramedic Technology currently offered at another campus.
“For our students, the college is a pathway from secondary education to a four-year degree or a good-paying job. For our residents and employers, the college is a responsive resource to an educated and skilled workforce,” said Dr. Julie Fickas, campus president and chief academic officer, STLCC-Forest Park. “Our commitment to our students’ futures is why we are really proud and excited about this new Center for Nursing and Health Sciences. It will help address the critical skills gap that exists with area health employers.”
Approximately 900 students will be served by the new facility, which will allow the college to expand programs in healthcare careers to serve more students, according to STLCC Communications Manager Nez Savala.
“The center is a strategic response to the need for more skilled nurses and healthcare professionals in the region. In the past 10 years, the growth for healthcare jobs was 14%, compared to a one-percent growth rate for all industries. In 2018, there were more than 21,000 posts for healthcare jobs,” said Savala.
The project also included overall site development and demolition of portions of the A and B Towers of the East Wing to make way for the new building. More than 20 subcontractors designated as MBE, WBE, DBE and others were involved in the facility’s design and construction.s