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Aurora St. Luke's Announces Construction of Rooftop Healing Garden and Conservatory

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Project will be financed entirely with philanthropic funds

Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center today announced plans for construction of a large healing garden and conservatory in a dramatic rooftop space, creating a beautiful and tranquil retreat for patients, families and caregivers. The project is being paid for entirely with gifts from foundations, grateful patients and local corporations.

Work on the Vince Lombardi Charitable Funds Healing Garden and the Agnes and Morland Hamilton Healing Conservatory will start this week.

“This incredible new garden will help us achieve our vision for patient-centered care, and that means caring for body, mind and spirit,” said Mary O’Brien, chief administrative officer of Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center. “The healing garden will provide a welcome respite for patients and families dealing with the stress of a hospital stay.”

The 14,000-square-foot healing garden, on an eighth floor rooftop, will offer calming views of nature year-round with the 4,000-square-foot conservatory that will include trees, shrubs, flowers and a water feature. The enclosed area will showcase panoramic views of the Milwaukee skyline, including Miller Park, downtown and Lake Michigan.

The Vince Lombardi Charitable Funds provided $1.5 million toward the $5 million project, and the Agnes and Moreland Hamilton estate donated $1.7 million. Many other gifts came from people who have received care at Aurora St. Luke’s.

The project was designed with ideas from patients and caregivers. The design committee was chaired by Don Tendick Jr., a major healing garden donor.

“This is a big day for the community – the patients, families, staff and visitors who will be able to come to the healing garden to find emotional and spiritual relief,” Tendick said. “It’s also a big day for three generations of Tendicks, who have been dedicated donors and supporters of Aurora St. Luke’s for many years. We believe deeply in the fine care that is available here. My wife, Kathy, received outstanding treatment from caregivers in both the cancer and neurological programs during two serious illnesses.

“But we felt another element of care was needed – a place to focus on something other than illness and the confines of the hospital. It was that feeling that led us to support the healing garden. We’re delighted to see this project begin and we will continue to support it,” Tendick said.

The conservatory will provide:

  • A view of the Milwaukee skyline and lake when entering the conservatory.
  • Indoor space for year-round use.
  • Natural, simple, clean lines to accent the garden.
  • A raised roof with windows called a “clere story” to allow plenty of natural light.
  • Double-insulated walls to minimize noise and vibrations.
  • A water feature.

Highlights of the outdoor garden will include:

  • A rejuvenating environment that allows visitors to flow from the conservatory into the garden.
  • Pathways that are wheelchair and bed accessible, ranging in width from 5 to 8 feet.
  • Lookout and sitting areas that provide skyline views of the city and beyond.
  • Circular walking paths that offer secluded areas for relaxation, conversation or meditation.
  • Trees and plants specifically selected to withstand Wisconsin’s climate.
  • A paved labyrinth for reflection.
  • An herb garden, whose herbs will be used by Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center food service in its meals.

A number of green elements have been incorporated into the plan:

  • Re-using pavers already on the rooftop.
  • Creating a green roof on the conservatory out of trays filled with sedum, a hardy plant often used in rooftop projects.
  • Using materials that come from within 500 miles of the project, such as the Minnesota limestone used in walkways.

“We wanted to make sure to incorporate green aspects to our plan so that it was not only good for our patients, but also for the environment,” O’Brien said. Aurora has applied for basic LEED (Leadership In Energy and Environmental Design) certification for the garden.

Among the residents in the St. Luke’s neighborhood is nationally known horticulturalist Melinda Myers.

“I am thrilled by this project on so many different levels,” she said. “As someone who lives in the neighborhood, I see how much Aurora contributes on a daily basis, not only as a medical center but as an anchor of the community. As a patient, I have experienced Aurora’s commitment to patient-centered care. As a horticulturalist, I know there is a deeply calming, serene strength we can draw from nature that rejuvenates mind, body and spirit. I believe deeply in the therapeutic aspects of gardening and healing gardens and am delighted to see this addition to our community.”

Brubaker Architects and Daniel Weinbach & Partners, Ltd, both of Chicago, were selected for the project, based on their previous experience with healing gardens. Mortenson Construction is overseeing the project. Mortenson and Brubaker also worked together on a smaller healing garden at Aurora Medical Center in Oshkosh.

The project will get under way this week with the arrival of a crane that will move materials up to the roof. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit Wisconsin health care provider and a national leader in efforts to improve the quality of health care. Aurora offers care at sites in more than 90 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin.

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Contact: Sue Pierman (414-647-6432)

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