‘Our community has been waiting for this’: New children’s hospital construction starts this spring

Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU will celebrate construction of the inpatient hospital with three events in May and June, including a groundbreaking June 8.

Blake, right, and his siblings enjoy the sunset following an afternoon of appointments at the CHo...
Blake, right, and his siblings enjoy the sunset following an afternoon of appointments at the CHoR Children's Pavilion. (Photo courtesy of Kim Hassmer)

Kim Hassmer is a pro at navigating the children’s services at VCU Medical Center’s Main and Critical Care hospitals, sometimes with three children in tow. Her middle child, Blake, has complex medical needs and receives the majority of his coordinated care at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

Hassmer refers to Blake as a “frequent flyer” at CHoR, as his journey has included many emergency department visits and hospital stays, as well as ongoing outpatient care. Currently, pediatric inpatient and emergency services are in the same facilities as adult care on the VCU Medical Center downtown campus.

Hassmer and her husband were thrilled with the news of the new inpatient children’s hospital in February.  

“We love CHoR and the care they provide for Blake, but keeping track of where to go is sometimes difficult, especially when it involves walking from building to building and crossing downtown streets,” she said. “We often see multiple providers in one day, so I have to map out ahead of time the best place to park and what to bring with me.”

The new inpatient hospital will be located immediately adjacent to the outpatient Children’s Pavilion with the Hassmer family — and thousands of others who come to CHoR for care — in mind. Families are even being asked to participate in the planning process to let the architects and hospital leaders know what they would like to see in their new children’s hospital.

“Our community has been waiting for this. We are not only building a brand new children’s hospital for them, but we’re doing it with them,” said Elias Neujahr, CEO of CHoR. “We want to hear about their experiences and welcome their ideas about what we can improve in the new facility. That’s what this is all about, building the absolute best for kids and families as we continue our journey toward being among the top 20 children’s hospitals in the country.”

Three events over the next several weeks will mark the beginning of construction, and invite community members to share their vision for the new hospital.

Rendering of the new children's hospital — view from Marshall Street. (Graphic courtesy of HKS, Inc.)
Rendering of the new children's hospital — view from Marshall Street. (Graphic courtesy of HKS, Inc.)

Ceremonial Demolition Day

On Saturday, May 4, regional leaders and donors will gather outside the old Marshall Street Children’s Pavilion between 10th and 11th streets for a ceremonial demolition day. The new hospital will be constructed where the former outpatient pavilion currently stands. The event, which will feature CHoR patients and siblings splattering the building with paint, will signify tearing down the old and beginning anew. The actual demolition will begin in the following days.

Community Design Fair

On Saturday, May 18, from 9 a.m. to noon, CHoR invites the community to the current outpatient Children’s Pavilion at 1000 E. Broad St. for a community design fair to share what they desire in their new children’s hospital. The fair will include imagination stations, coloring tables and opportunities to engage with doctors, architects and hospital leaders about what is important in a pediatric environment. The event will be complete with free parking, snacks, games, therapy dogs and plenty of family fun.

Learn more about the Community Design Fair at https://chrichmond.org/CommunityDesignFair.htm.

Groundbreaking

On June 8, CHoR will break ground on the approximately 500,000-square-foot hospital. In addition to 16 stories of clinical and support space, the building will include four levels of parking below ground, outdoor garden spaces, Ronald McDonald House Charities family rooms, child life play rooms, as well as space for special visitors, parties and musical performances. These are just the beginning, as additional features will come from community and team member input.

CHoR’s 86 licensed beds will relocate from the VCU Medical Center Main Hospital to the new building by the end of 2022, as will the pediatric emergency department, which is often the Hassmers’ first stop before Blake is admitted. Blake has a special relationship with nurses and doctors across CHoR who know how to care for him on his most challenging days. His mother looks forward to having them all close together in adjacent buildings so they can easily pop in to check on her boy and keep him smiling.

“Having all of our wonderful experts, testing, inpatient and outpatient [children’s] services, parking and the emergency department in one place is a really big deal, especially for a kid who sees as many specialists as Blake does,” she said. “How much better will it be when we are inpatient and waiting on test results, diet information for our hungry child or other timely information, and our doctor is just a quick elevator ride away rather than across the street?”