Topeka, Kan. – The Kansas Health Institute (KHI) today will welcome guests to celebrate the grand opening of its newly renovated home with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4:00 p.m. at 212 SW 8th Avenue in downtown Topeka. Built in 1939, the building is the former location of the historic Hayden Catholic High School.
KHI’s Board of Directors approved the purchase of the building in March 2015 to create more flexible meeting space for its programming, including large and small convenings about health policy topics, as well as comfortable spaces for conversation.
To make decisions that improve the health of Kansans, policymakers must understand how health is influenced by a range of factors, including lifestyle choices, socioeconomic status, diversity, and the effectiveness of public health and health care systems. Located directly across from the front entrance of the Kansas statehouse—policymakers, government leaders and other groups will have easy access to the experts at KHI.
The fact that people have come to this building for education throughout its history is an important part of its appeal as the home of KHI. “Our work focuses on improving the health of people in Kansas by supporting effective policymaking through nonpartisan research and policy analysis. This location—a school for more than 50 years and so close to the legislature and state agencies—couldn’t be a better place for KHI,” said Robert St. Peter, M.D., president and CEO.
The design of the first floor is a comfortable place for formal meetings or informal conversations and collaboration with natural light to encourage health and wellness. The custom wood “river wall” in the lobby simulates a sky-view of the northeastern border of the state formed by the Missouri River, and is made of Kansas white oak. The design in the flooring and ceiling depict the intersecting determinants of health and the variations in health status across Kansas.
The building was renovated with the goal of providing a welcoming and comfortable space to do the hard work of understanding and addressing the many difficult health policy challenges we face in our state. Meetings in the building will benefit from the expertise of KHI staff, effective facilitation that welcomes and respects differing opinions and points of view, updated audiovisual equipment to help engage people from locations around the state and nation, and an environment that promotes healthfulness. The focus on healthy meetings includes open interior and exterior spaces, wide sunlit staircases, healthy food and beverage options, and opportunities to move or stretch during long meetings.
Hufft Projects was the architect on the project. Veloxity Building Concepts, a division of McCownGordon Construction, was the general contractor.
KHI is also working with the City of Topeka and the Downtown Topeka Foundation on a health-focused pocket park at the corner of 8th and Van Buren streets, targeted to open in summer 2017.