Advocate Aurora Health Center in Racine – An Adaptive Reuse Case Study

With many retailers downsizing or going out of business over the past several years (and accelerating in 2020), more retail space is becoming available. At the same time, many healthcare providers are looking to fill service gaps in the community by adding new clinic locations. Since retail spaces are typically located along public transportation routes and in commercial zones and provide easy access for potential patients, adaptive reuse of these buildings offers a great solution. Vacant retail space also offers an advantage for healthcare systems creating new facilities as  these buildings usually offer open floor plans and requiring less demolition.  These spaces can be more cost effective for reuse than renovating another building type.

Advocate Aurora Health’s newest healthcare facility, located in a former Pier 1 Imports store near the Regency Mall in Racine, is a great example of adaptive reuse. Zimmerman Architectural Studios designed the 9,600 square foot clinic which will provide primary care, urgent care, imaging, and on-site laboratory services. This facility uses a patient self-rooming model for the 11 exam rooms. When patients arrive and check in, they are directed to the exam room where they will be seen. This model will reduce the wait times and the need for waiting area space. The clinic features a collaborative staff work area surrounded by exam rooms, which reduces footsteps for clinical staff and improves communication. Our team applied AAH’s interior design standards to provide a warm and welcoming clinic environment.

Along with the interior renovation, the exterior of the building was upgraded. The vestibule was expanded to enhance patient circulation. New windows were cut in along the front facade and along the back where the staff offices and break room are located to bring more natural light inside. New air handling units were installed along with a new emergency generator and electrical transformer added to the site to support the utility needs of the clinic. The parking lot footprint remained the same but it was upgraded with new paving and parking lot lights. New landscaping and exterior lights were added to the building to improve the exterior aesthetics.

Identifying any existing utility gaps and developing solutions is key to successfully redeveloping vacant retail space into a healthcare use. On this project, the design team and client identified the need for an emergency generator. The existing site was very constricted so the location of the generator was reviewed and evaluated by the team to find the best solution. The final location was selected because of the close proximity to the electrical room, that reduced wire lengths and costs. In addition, the building needed its own electrical transformer installed. The existing building shared a transformer with the neighboring building. This installation required close coordination with the electrical company and the neighbor to install it during off hours to eliminate down time. The cut over went well and was done in a shorter period than originally anticipated.

By adaptively reusing vacant retail spaces, healthcare systems can add new clinics in locations that are currently underserved and provide better access to services for their patients. Zimmerman Architectural Studios is excited to be part of another successful project with Advocate Aurora Health, working side by side with our MEP engineers from Harwood Engineering and general contractor C.G. Schmidt.

Senior Project Architect Randy Schlee, AIA, LEED AP BD+C | LinkedIn

Aurora’s Collaborative Care and Self-Rooming Models are the Answer During Pandemic Care

Zimmerman’s design for this clinic in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin is another strong example of collaborative care model planning, and Advocate Aurora Health’s commitment to improving operational efficiencies and patient outcomes.

Constructed by C.G. Schmidt, the 22,500 square foot project makes use of patient self-rooming for all 26 exam rooms which reduces wait times and the need for waiting area space. While this is smart and efficient planning that maximizes the use of patient care space, it has the added benefit of reduced congestion and minimized contact during the current pandemic. Staff shares open collaborative spaces that are off-stage from the patient areas and hidden from view. Exam rooms connect the separate operational flows of patients and staff with doors that open to both sides.



The design process made use of detailed visualizations to help end users understand the look and feel of the space before construction started, and confidently make planning and design decisions. Zimmerman continues to enjoy working with Advocate Aurora Health on projects that are forward-thinking, and that have proven results in staff and patient satisfaction.



Creating a Space for Spiritual Health in a Time of Healthcare Uncertainty – a Case Study

When circumstances are beyond our control, many find solace in connecting with the spirit. Through meditation, prayer, or reflection in a quiet place, healing the mind-body-spirit connection can bring peace during times of uncertainty. Earlier this year, Froedtert Hospital answered the call for soul healing and support by opening a renovated spiritual space nestled deep within the clinical maze. A small space squeezed between a noisy corridor and bustling offices, opened its new doors as an oasis of quiet meditation and self-reflection.

The design challenge was to transform the existing chapel within its current footprint. A sweeping curved wall was introduced to dissolve the sense of one’s orientation within the space and a wing wall was strategically placed to create a buffer to the main entry and aid in the transition to solemnity. The team took a strategic approach of incorporating little gems of reverence for diversity and various religious practices into the design matrix.


A very important goal was to maintain the multi-denominational inclusivity of the Chapel. The design team worked closely with the hospital chaplain on determining the content, the flow and the accurate visualization for all religious forms and functions of the space. Seven symbols of faith have been strategically placed to lead the way into the Chapel, unfolding this hidden room in front of visitors’ eyes.

In the heart of the Chapel – the Bible on the lectern and the sanctuary light on the wall; the Quran on its stand; the Prayer Wall with a floating shelf where words of thanks and pleas for healing are written – all received their appropriate space, orientation and iconography.

As the curved wall unravels in front of them, Chapel visitors get subtly cued in by several curated pieces of artwork and antiques from the donor’s personal collection. Four refinished antique kneelers bring the memories of old times and reinforce the importance of staying grounded in faith through prayer. The crystalline and weightless aquarelle painting of a canoe and its shadow pays tribute to the Native American way of life where religion is united with nature and landscape.

Anticipating the cue, Zimmerman designers took a biophilic design approach to bring natural materials and the sensation of natural light into the Chapel. The stained glass windows brightened the space and brought in the motifs of barley spikes as a homage to the heritage and the origin of the Froedtert Hospital trust, the Froedtert Malting Company.

Today, the Chapel is full of warm sun, bright blue skies, and fresh greens. The chosen glass colors blend nicely with light wood panels and soft fabrics, providing a needed atmosphere of calm and peace. A small stone wall, with candle-like integral lights and narrow slots for prayer notes, is now a place where prayers can be whispered or turned in. The ceiling oval provides tiny flickers of light for special occasions, while disguising the sound proofing above its wood grille. This acoustical blanket ensures for the moments of quietness in the worried life of a patient’s family, or in a stressed day of a staff member. Hidden behind the neighboring wall fabric finish is another layer of sound proofing – high efficiency acoustical panels, providing the shield from noisy offices beyond. All lights are LED, dimmable and programmable, enabling different settings for various uses of this space – for everyday public use, for special gatherings and ceremonies, for quiet nightly soul searching.  Smaller size stained glass panels are easily removable for LED ribbon lights replacement and maintenance. For larger size windows, back access to lights and wiring was provided with a goal of minimizing the disruption of Chapel services and reducing the risk of damage to large stained glass panels due to their removal.

The furniture has been carefully selected to be soft and comfortable, but at the same time sturdy and supportive. The chairs are light and movable, their rounded forms fitting the curvature of wood walls. Even though the benches appear airy and sculptural, they are bariatric grade and accessible to all.

In such a small space, every square inch was a premium. To provide for badly needed storage the design team made creative use of several residual spaces – a small storage room was carved out of the cavity behind the curved wall; the sacristy base cabinet was equipped with hidden hardware and magnetic locks to discourage potential thefts and make the storage function less obvious. To protect the privacy of prayer notes, a built-in collection box inside the stone clad wall was given a lockable access panel on the back side, accessible only to chapel staff.

The redesign of Kurtis R. Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Chapel came to life thanks to a generous donation to the Froedtert Hospital Foundation. Froedtert’s Facilities Planning and Development team partnered with Zimmerman Architectural Studios to lead the design effort, and with C.G. Schmidt as the general contractor. Stained glass windows were created in collaboration with Oakbrook Esser Studios in Oconomowoc.

Zimmerman Architectural Studios project design team is proud to have supported the creation of this precious retreat. We thank Froedtert Hospital for this opportunity, and we hope that the Chapel serves its noble purpose to the community for many years to come.

Team: Lisa Jansen ASID – Interior Design, Zorana Kostovic – Project Manager, Brian Nelson LEED AP – Architectural Designer





Zorana Kostovic

Zorana Kostovic

Senior Associate | Senior Project Associate

Ms. Kostovic, a project manager with more than 10 years of healthcare focused project management experience, participates in all stages of the healthcare design process, from schematic and design development, to construction documentation and management. Ms. Kostovic specializes in healthcare:  architecture project development; programming; planning; construction documents; construction administration, and specifications development. Zorana’s project portfolio includes physician’s suites, hospitals, clinics, and medical office buildings and she has completed both new construction and renovation and remodeling projects. Kostovic, whose career spans more than 20 years, has completed projects in the United States and abroad.  She is skilled in generation of project documentation in Architectural RE.