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MKM Completes Work on Campus Redesign for Crossroad Child & Family Services

by: Jack Quigley
MKM Design and Architecture recently worked with Shawnee Construction and Crossroad Child & Family Services in Fort Wayne to redesign the organization’s 135-year-old campus. Crossroad Child & Family Services is a non-for-profit institution that provides therapy, education, and family support services to children in difficult circumstances.

In a project that included 19,000 square feet of new construction and 7,000 square feet of renovation, MKM designed an updated campus to facilitate the 43 percent increase in demand for services that Crossroad has experienced since 2010. The development includes a new outpatient care center and residential treatment building, which allow for better collaboration between therapists and case managers as well as an increased feeling of security for patients on campus.

Zach Benedict, AIA, LEED AP, Principal for MKM, said his design team wanted to create a space that helps Crossroad employees do their jobs effectively while simultaneously improving the overall wellbeing of clients on campus.

“For us, this project needed to be focused on the idea of hope,” Benedict said. “Our design team took that to heart and thought, ‘We’ve got to get this right,’ because there are a lot of kids who depend on this organization being around, effective, and sustainable for another 135 years.”

Increasing Capacity and Creating Relaxing Environments

Crossroad’s campus originally functioned as orphanage and transitioned its operations as community needs changed. The organization’s CEO, Randall Rider, said his community has seen an increase in the number of people struggling with severe mental health problems in recent years.

Potential Crossroad inpatients had to wait nearly three months for a bed before the redesign, so Rider said they needed to increase their capacity for clients in order to keep up with the surge of troubled youth in Indiana.

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“What worked in the 1950s does not work in 2020 with a different population,” Rider said.

One of the problems Rider noticed with the campus’s previous layout was its lack of privacy and its inaccessibility to clients with disabilities. Clients struggling with mental health issues were forced to climb stairs to visit therapists and were often confused about the location of services within the facility. The new residential treatment center now sits on the curb of the facility, making it more accessible to the public, and all offices are now located on the ground floor of the facility to better serve clients with mobility issues.

“It’s much more accessible and pleasant for them to have a counseling experience there,” Rider said.

In the newly added outpatient care facility, clients can have conversations with their therapists and case managers in a more relaxed environment with less distractions. Discussions can now evolve from therapy suites into a semi-private therapy garden where clients attending counseling sessions can interact with plants and outdoor musical instruments

“It gives an opportunity for therapists and kids to interact with each other differently beyond just sitting in a therapy office,” Rider said. “Kids can get up and touch and feel and smell, and some of those barriers are removed.”

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MKM designed the outpatient care building as a U-shaped structure to ensure the separation of treatment services and business operations. Rider said clients coming in for therapy are often concerned about their privacy, so each wing now has individual waiting rooms that no longer force business clients to interact with therapy patients. The business side of the structure also includes skylights and raised windows that make it impossible for office employees to look into someone’s therapy session

Helping Employees While Respecting History
Benedict said coming into this project, his design-build team had to embrace Crossroad’s culture and their serious approach to their work. Through a series of interactive design workshops with Crossroad’s leadership team, MKM used staff input to shape their design of the facility.

Benedict said he aimed create a design that helps Crossroad staff do their jobs more effectively, whether it be noticeable or subliminal.

“This was a glaring example of how a design for a series of buildings could help an organization do the amazing work they were doing before we started,” Benedict said. “The biggest challenge is making sure our design doesn’t require them to have more staff and the building doesn’t get in their way.”

Rider said one of the key benefits to the new design will be the increased opportunities that he and his staff will have to work with each other face-to-face. Before the redesign, Rider said he would talk with his staff over the phone and via email more than he would in person due to the physical distance between their offices.

“This new building allowed us to bring together, under one roof, staff who were in four different buildings on our campus,” Rider said.

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Since Crossroad’s campus is over a century old, their buildings were constructed in different generations designed with some contrasting styles. Five of their older buildings sported a red brick exterior that clashed with the white education complex sitting in the middle of campus. Benedict said his firm made the decision early on to raise one building and build the other two to make them look as contextual as possible with the existing structures on campus.

MKM came up with a design for the new treatment operations building that combines elements of the historic brick aesthetic with the white exterior of the education complex, creating contextual cues and reproductions of facades that add to the overall historic aesthetic instead of signifying differences between buildings.

“I love the fact that someone walking by the campus might not know which buildings are new or old,” Benedict said.

Benedict said the massing of the buildings are now almost identical to their surrounding structures in terms of proportion, scale, and material.

Designing a Safer Environment
Crossroad employees work with a troubled population on a daily basis, so Rider said it was important that MKM understand the sensitive nature of this project.

“Safety and security were paramount,” Rider said.

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He said his staff they worked closely with Benedict and MKM to ensure that each part of the new design felt safe to clients and staff. Buildings are now completely ligature risk free and their external design features make it impossible for kids to climb onto the roof – an issue that Crossroad has experienced before.

Line of sight to clients was also pressing concern expressed by Crossroad employees. With no blindspots in the new design, staff can now supervise their inpatients more effectively

“Direct line of sight supervision by our staff is very important for our emotionally disturbed adolescent clients because things can go badly very quickly if staff aren’t being vigilant,” Rider said. “So MKM really helped us with that.”

Crossroad and MKM also wanted inpatients to feel safer in their new campus, so they designed the new and renovated buildings to define an inner mall space that gives clients the feeling that they are maneuvering around a campus.

“No matter what view you look at, you get the sense that you’re within a campus and not on the edge of something,” Benedict said.

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Between their increased opportunities for collaboration, their heightened security measures, and their ability to accommodate more clients, Rider said Crossroad employees appreciate MKM’s thoughtful redesign.

“The important thing for us was to communicate the high-risk nature of our clients and our client’s safety needs,” Rider said “MKM did an excellent job of listening to what we thought we wanted and suggesting some ideas, and it really gelled together nicely with very functional spaces for us.”

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