Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Unveils its State-of-the-Art New Hospital to the Public

Boston, MA – Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital unveiled its new 262,000 square foot, 132 bed patient-centered hospital to the public this week. The facility has already been recognized for its LEED Gold status, reflecting its commitment to green design principles. Located at 300 First Avenue in Charlestown, the hospital will be previewed for the public and areas providers prior to the full patient and staff move on Saturday April 27th, when the operations transfer from its former location.

Since its founding in Boston’s West End by Dr. Josiah Spaulding in the late 1960’s at the beginning of the disability rights movement in Massachusetts, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital (originally opened as Massachusetts Rehabilitation Hospital) has helped thousands of patients and families recover from complex conditions and serious illnesses such as stroke, severe burns, limb-loss, spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury. The hospital has grown into a national leader in rehabilitative care and research as a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital and the only rehabilitation hospital in New England recognized as a best hospital by US News and World Reports each year since 1995.

Despite the tremendous recognition, the building that Spaulding had called home since its inception had reached its capacity for updating and an urgent replacement facility was needed. With broad support from government and the community, Spaulding embarked on an ambitious project to build a patient centered state-of-the-art hospital in the Charlestown Navy Yard that would a model of inclusive and sustainable design.

“Spaulding is a beacon of hope and healing for people around the state and the world,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “I congratulate them on opening this extraordinary rehabilitative care and state-of-the-art research facility.”

The leaders at Spaulding approached the project with the same critical eye towards improvement that its clinicians use with their patients. It was not enough to build a new hospital. The goal was to build a new type of rehabilitative hospital and in the process provide an example of how to create a patient-centered environment for people of all abilities while also using the best practices in “green design”.

“For far too long, rehabilitative care was an afterthought to many, relegated to the basements of hospitals and out of site. This hospital makes a bold statement that a new era of rehabilitative medicine is here by bringing together scientific innovation and patient-centered design that puts this institution on par with the major centers of healing in the world,” said David Storto, President, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. “It’s truly an honor to lead Spaulding and serve this region with its leaders who have the forethought to understand how vital Spaulding will be for decades to come.”

Annually, Spaulding serves more than 2,500 inpatients and almost 30,000 outpatients per year. One of those 2,500 inpatients, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, was a strong supporter in enabling the hospital to be built and understanding the difference the patient-centered experience will be in this new setting.

“Well before I was a patient at Spaulding, I cherished this resource for Boston and our region,” said Mayor Menino. “To be able to personally experience the dedication and clinical excellence of the staff as a patient, I’m even more proud to see this world class facility here today. It serves as symbol for the revitalization of the Navy Yard and marks its continued emergence as a life science district for our city.”

The new facility brings a broad range of key innovations to its design as well as enabling new methods of delivering care.  An aquatic therapy center was created with a large therapy pool and a smaller resistance training pool which will serve inpatients, outpatients and community programming. The exterior has an extensive outdoor therapy garden to allow clinicians to work with patients to practice navigating on a variety of surfaces such as sand, cobblestones, concrete stairs and a boardwalk. Nature, light and the outdoors were incorporated into the design whenever possible to aid in the healing process for patients. Each patient room is private and lines the exterior of the building so they receive the maximum amount of natural light possible. From the floor markings to room signage, all aspects of the hospital were created to be both functional and provide therapeutic value.

“In rehabilitation medicine, we use everything at our disposal to improve our patients’ ability to achieve their therapeutic and quality of life goals. What this new hospital will do is allow our clinicians to have almost unlimited tools to work with patients in novel ways from the gym, the halls or the outdoors,” said Dr. Ross Zafonte, VP of Clinical Affairs, Research and Education at Spaulding and Chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School. “The freedom we now have to expand our scientific explorations in this environment in such a dynamic way will have innumerable benefits for our collective understanding of the biology of recovery.”

A center of research, Spaulding has more than one hundred 100 studies in areas from Parkinson’s Disease, Stroke and Cerebral Palsy. It recently became only the second hospital in the country to hold three simultaneous, national model systems designations from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) in burn injury rehabilitation, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury.

The patient centered experience at the new Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital did not stop with the clinical care.  Incorporating inclusive design principles, Storto noted the goal was “to go beyond compliance and set a new standard in accessibility.” Every feature of the facility was examined. For example, the sinks throughout the hospital have a shallow bowl so minimum reaching is required. Water faucets, paper towels dispensers, doors in public areas and hand sanitizers are all motion activated. Patient care unit desks and information desks have “cut outs” to allow for easy straight on wheel chair access. Even the classic patient room closet door was improved to allow for 180 degree opening so a person in a wheel chair can have full access. Accessibility also became function with wheel chair cut outs incorporated seamlessly into the outdoor seating design.

Another exciting aspect of the project is the rehabilitation of the site began well before the hospital will welcome its first patient.  After sitting as an empty brownfield for over 40 years, Spaulding committed to a significant remediation of the Yard’s End site.  The result of a certified greenfield has been hailed by environmental advocates and the EPA alike. Its waterfront location provides Spaulding’s patients a chance to engage in Spaulding’s Adaptive Sports program with activities such as hand cycling, windsurfing and kayaking however also presented planning challenges in dealing with storms and rising tides.

Noted recently by Mayor Menino’s Green Ribbon Commission as well as the Boston Harbor Association recent report Preparing for Climate Change, Spaulding took innovative steps to prepare for climate change and storms like Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina. The main primary electrical services are located in the rooftop and powered by a fuel pump that is secured in a flood-proof vault with a 150,000 gallon tank. Operable windows were installed in all of the patient rooms and activity spaces to allow air flow to always be available.  The ground floor and all openings into the garage are raised 2.5 feet above the current 500-year flood plain elevation to safeguard against projected sea level rise over the life of the building.  Around the perimeter the landscape walls will serve as artificial "reefs" in the event of major storm surge.   

Walsh Brothers of Boston oversaw the hospital’s construction, and it was designed by the architectural firm, Perkins Will. Haley and Aldrich oversaw the site’s remediation.

“For this day to become a reality took the work and dedication of thousands of people and together we all take pride to have done our part to enable the amazing things that will happen here for our patients and families,” said Storto. “All of us at Spaulding are filled with pride today to share this new world class hospital which will become a symbol of hope and healing for generations to come.”

About the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital

Founded in 1971, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston is one of the largest rehabilitation facilities in the United States, and is ranked the 5th top rehabilitation hospital in the country by U.S. News & World Report. As the official teaching
hospital of the Harvard Medical School Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R), Spaulding is at the forefront of research in advances in rehabilitative care. On April 27, 2013, Spaulding will open a new 132-bed facility in Charlestown which is national model for environmental and inclusive design. With a wide range of inpatient programs and 23 outpatient centers throughout Eastern Massachusetts, Spaulding strives to continually update and improve its programs to offer patients the latest, high-quality care through its leading, expert providers. Spaulding has been awarded a Model Systems designation in three specialty areas- Brain Injury, Spinal Cord Injury and Brain Injury Rehabilitation- by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. For more information, please visit www.spauldingrehab.org

Media Contacts

For media inquiries, please contact the Spaulding Communications Department at (617) 952-5325 or by email