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Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU celebrates ribbon-cutting of new Children’s Tower

Image shows the Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU's new facility on the outside, with a busy city street below. When combined with the adjacent outpatient Children’s Pavilion, the Children’s Tower completes a city block dedicated to caring for kids. (Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU)

Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR) on Tuesday celebrated the ribbon-cutting for its Children’s Tower, Richmond’s new home for pediatric inpatient, emergency and trauma care. Nearly 300 families, elected officials, hospital team members, donors and community partners gathered to celebrate the completely kid-focused, $420 million facility which will officially open on April 30. 

The Children’s Tower was designed for and with the help of families and providers in the community, based on extensive research into best practices in pediatric health care. When combined with the adjacent outpatient Children’s Pavilion, the Children’s Tower completes a city block – nearly 1 million square feet – dedicated to caring for kids. The 16-story building houses the region’s only Level 1 pediatric trauma center and emergency department with 24/7 access to any pediatric specialist a child may need, along with family amenities and 72 all-private acute and intensive care rooms that are among the most spacious in the country.

Serving the community and commonwealth

“This is a great day for Virginia and our capital city of Richmond. Not only do we have the best and brightest medical providers – many of whom have graduated from our outstanding Virginia medical schools – but patients can get care from them in state-of-the-art facilities while remaining close to home,” Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin said. “This Children’s Tower will help ensure that our youngest Virginians can grow into our future leaders, care providers and difference makers.”

CHoR broke ground on the Children’s Tower in June 2019 as part of a comprehensive plan to address the needs of the community and state.

“I had the pleasure of attending the groundbreaking for the Children’s Tower and what a difference a few years has made,” Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said. “As I watched this building rise from City Hall next door, I thought about the kids and families from our city and beyond who will benefit from the beautiful space and dedicated teams inside. Children are our future, and the future of Richmond is bright.”

The Children’s Tower project was completed on time, despite obstacles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The VCU Children’s Tower represents a commitment to our children and communities that we’re putting their needs first,” said VCU and VCU Health System President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “After many years of our team’s focus on addressing the needs of children in a comprehensive way, I’m so grateful that we’re able to bring together comprehensive children’s health services and research into the early, formative aspects of human development, including the causes and cures of disease and development. CHoR will serve children and families in Richmond and across the Mid-Atlantic and beyond, and I’m grateful to every team member and donor who helped make this a reality.”

Providers at CHoR care for both the most common and complex injuries and illnesses, last year serving more than 70,000 families from across the commonwealth, nearly all 50 states and outside the U.S. The Children’s Tower is expanding inpatient bed capacity and emergency room access by 40 percent on opening day. Access to imaging and services from the Level 1 Children’s Surgery Center will also increase. The building includes space for growth to meet future needs.

Completely kid-focused 

In addition to pediatric-specific operating rooms, imaging suites and trauma bays equipped with the latest advancements for optimal medical care, the Children’s Tower creates a kid-friendly patient experience with added convenience. It is located one turn off Interstate-95 and offers free onsite parking, including valet for families visiting the emergency room. 

Playrooms, teen lounges, a family gym, interactive installations, performance space and family lounges are among the amenities that will be available on opening day to make the environment more comfortable for kids and families. The cafeteria offers kid-friendly dining options, including brick oven pizza, while the James River theme includes colors and animal mascots to differentiate each floor and help with navigating the building. Additional amenities will open later this summer, including a RMHC In-Hospital-House, multifaith chapel and indoor children’s garden.

Family perspectives

The Kuriakose family knows well the need for pediatric expertise and capacity at a moment’s notice. On April 14, 2022, their 9-year-old daughter Zoe was riding her scooter in their Chesterfield neighborhood when she was hit by a truck.

“The EMS drivers debated taking her to a closer hospital, but they decided to go to CHoR and I’m so glad they did,” said Zoe’s dad, Chandy.

After receiving surgery from the Level 1 pediatric trauma team, Zoe was in the pediatric intensive care unit for a month. She wasn’t able to speak or walk, and her parents were unsure whether their daughter would fully recover. Nearly a year later, Zoe is walking, talking, singing and dancing. 

Carson Barglof, now 19 months old, also received lifesaving care at CHoR last year.

“He had a horrible case of RSV. He had no prior health conditions and then he had two febrile seizures,” said Carson’s mom, Anna. “He was med-flighted to CHoR and spent his first birthday in the PICU.”

Carson’s journey from his pediatrician’s office to intubation in an ambulance, arrival at the nearest hospital and ultimately traveling by helicopter “to a hospital that could handle his case,” resulted in a month-long hospital stay at CHoR so pediatric experts could attend to his needs while he was on on a ventilator. 

Like Zoe, Carson is thriving today. The Children’s Tower will offer families the same level of care, but in a modern facility designed just for them.

Pediatric patient Zoe smiles with Jeniece Roane, MS, RN, vice president of operations at CHoR. Zoe is wearing a lime green sweater.

Pediatric patient Zoe with Jeniece Roane, MS, RN, vice president of operations at CHoR. (Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU)

Years in the making

“The conversations around a fully kid-focused children’s hospital have been taking place for many years. When I came to CHoR, I joined the group of passionate advocates dedicated to making our community’s dream a reality,” CHoR president Elias Neujahr said. “It seems surreal that we’re now ready to bring our remarkable teams into this new space to make a lifesaving and life-changing difference for kids and families. It wouldn’t have been possible without the commitment of our teams, Children’s Hospital Foundation and incredible community of supporters who have worked tirelessly for the last several years. This hospital is all for our kids and it’s unlike any other.”

While much of the work to bring the Children’s Tower to life took place in the hospital and on the building site, it was bolstered by generous community support. 

“We’re extremely grateful to our donors and partners in the community who have contributed more than $66 million to our capital campaign, helping to bring this Children’s Tower to fruition,” said Lauren Moore, Children’s Hospital Foundation president and CEO. “Our work doesn’t stop the day we open. We will continue toward our $100 million goal and beyond so CHoR can keep growing, expanding and advancing to provide the best possible care to kids and families.”

HKS was the architect for the Children’s Tower, with project management by JLL and construction by DPR.

Take a virtual tour of the Children’s Tower and meet the James River themed animal mascots at chrichmond.org/childrenstower.

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