Healthcare & Senior Living Architecture

Kearney Regional Medical Center

Creating a New Community Hospital from the Ground Up

In the spring of 2009, Les Mock, AIA, WDM principal and leader of the Healthcare Studio was approached by a group of 40 physicians in Kearney, Nebraska, who had grown frustrated with their community hospital’s leadership. They wanted more autonomy to place the needs of their patients and community first. The group envisioned an efficient, physician-owned regional hospital and requested a proposal from WDM.

WDM asked Perkins+Will, an architectural leader in healthcare design, to join their team in submitting a proposal. Spring turned into fall with no firm commitment, when in October, the group announced to the community their plans to build a second community hospital.

Mid-November the WDM/Perkins+Will team learned they were successful in securing the project over strong national design/build competition. Then, December 22nd, the team received the official Notice to Proceed.

Kearney Regional Medical Center Case Study by WDM Architects-1
Early Sketchup rendering of Kearney Regional Medical Center

Site Selection

WDM performed thorough site investigations at several locations in and around Kearney and prepared Site Investigation Reports for each site.

Site Investigation Reports included:

  1. Investigation of municipal requirements
  2. On-site evaluation of potential sites
  3. Met with planning and zoning officials, building code and fire department officials and other local city stakeholders
  4. Determined availability of electricity, gas, telephone, cable TV, and fiber optics
  5. Provided a written report

WDM then reviewed each site with the physicians and helped determine which offered the best location for the new healthcare facility, along with room for future growth.

An 80-acre site across from Yanney Park was selected, however, it would require replatting, rezoning and a series of public meetings before a building permit could be issued.

WDM sought the services of Miller and Associates to assist us at the local level for all the preliminary site plan submittal documentation and meetings. Miller provided all the civil engineering services as well as infrastructure and street improvements that was required by the development district regulations.

Kearney Regional Medical Center Case Study by WDM Architects-2
Site Investigation Reports map of site. The project began with a 16-acre parcel for the Hospital and Medical Office Building.

Politics and Deadlines

By January 2010, WDM held a series of collaborative design charettes with the physician group and work was underway on the schematic design phase of their dream facility.

News of Kearney’s new hospital started a political tug-of-war between the physicians group and the area’s established hospital. In January a state law was introduced that would place a two-year moratorium on new hospital licenses in Nebraska after July 1.

Meanwhile, the Accountable Care Act, a federal healthcare reform law, placed a Medicare / Medicaid licensing deadline of December 31, 2010 for new physician-owned hospitals. Medicare and Medicaid licensing is critical for hospitals where reimbursements represent an average of 35% of their overall revenue according to

On March 9, 2010, the Kearney City Council approved plans for the first 40 acres platted for the development of the hospital, medical office building, and outparcels for additional medical offices or ancillary services, a skilled nursing facility and an assisted living facility.

“There was a little bit of panic when the bones were uncovered,” says Les Mock, WDM principal. “We couldn’t afford for anything to slow us down.” When bones are found during excavation, work is halted until the situation can be assessed by proper authorities to determine if the remains are animal or human, and if the site is of archeological significance. Thankfully, the bones were determined to be animal in origin and not of historical importance. Construction could continue at a rapid pace.

On March 10, production of the hospital’s precast concrete panels were started.

As the state law was being argued and the physician group was restructuring their new hospital’s ownership, the physician’s group requested a “reduced,” or core, hospital concept that could be completed and licensed by the July 1 moratorium date but thereafter be expanded in phases to meet the original hospital’s concept. Construction on the core hospital needed to begin in mid-March.

To meet this tremendous scheduling and coordination challenge, WDM dedicated more of their staff to the project team and took lead on Design Development of the core hospital while simultaneously Perkins+Will tackled the Design Development of the additions to create the full-scale hospital. Long hours and heated debates between design team members punctuated the hospital’s development, but the core hospital’s Construction Documents were completed and permitted within this aggressive time frame.

WDM then completed the Construction Documents on the full hospital during the summer of 2010 while concurrently overseeing construction administration.

Kearney Regional Medical Center Case Study by WDM Architects-3
Left Image: Construction began in the spring of 2010 on Kearney Regional Medical Center • Right Image: Bones discovered during site work for Kearney Regional Medical Center
Kearney Regional Medical Center Case Study By WDM Architects 4

Phase 1: Initial Hospital

During construction, the physician group continued to work out the complexities of the shifting laws respecting hospital ownership and contracted with an investment group to own the hospital, while the physicans would manage it.

WDM met the accelerated deadline for the hospital construction, however, the proposed state law prohibiting new hospital licenses for two years failed to pass. In the meantime, design and construction on Phase II, the Medical Office Building, began even before the hospital could open.

Kearney Regional Medical Center Opens

When entering the the beautiful new state-of-the-art Kearney Regional Medical Center, visitors are visually greeted with beautiful architectural details: expansive windows with strong horizonal linework, open spaces, clerestorys and natural themes.

Finish selections employ the timeless color scheme of the Nebraska prairie itself — blue skies, orange sunsets, golden sunflowers, and green fields all anchored by a rich, cinnamon brown. Interior designers used biophilic textures in wall coverings, carpeting and textiles.

High-traffic areas are floored with tile, but the installation is elevated beyond the norm with non-uniform tile patterns and sweeping curves. Even chairs in the waiting area are thoughtfully placed to coordinate organically without being ‘matchy-matchy’.

Energy-conscious daylighting strategies make effective use of sunlight pouring through the tall wall of east-facing windows. Cylindrical pendant lights further brighten the space and draw the eye upward to a multi-level ceiling.

Medical Office Building and Hospital Expansions

When the two-story Medical Office Building was built, interiors were chosen to coordinate well with the core hospital’s finishes and yet lend individual character to each of the practices that would call the building home. Areas are visually color-coded: Oncology is orange, Cardiology green, Internal Medicine gold and Labs are blue.

Kearney Regional Medical Center Case Study by WDM Architects-5

Future Growth and Expansion

Since opening, Kearney Regional Medical Center has experienced accelerated growth. The original 16-acre building site has been expanded by an additional five acres to accommodate the current expansion and future growth opportunities. One of the last projects Les Mock completed before he retired at the end of 2020 was to update the facility’s master plan.

WDM is pleased to continue to be involved in the continued growth of the campus.

Client Remodel: Dermatology Clinic

Early in 2020, WDM was retained to lead a 2,600-s.f. remodel of a medical office space for a new Dermatology Clinic. Typically, each physican or physician group wants their space be a unique reflection of their practice. WDM worked with client stakeholders to determine space needs and initial thoughts on interior finishes for the new practice. The client expressly wanted “something that looks fresh and modern.” WDM Interior Designer, Angi Womeldorff, IIDA, NCIDQ, put together a spa-inspired mood board of finishes with a serene palette of pastel blue greens paired with a neutral warm gray.

Healthcare treatment and procedure areas are required to have solid sheet vinyl for flooring for maximum cleanability. In other spaces, Angi chose Luxury Vinyl Flooring and carpet tiles so the install could be customized with interesting patterns. The cubicle curtains are a fashionable green to blue ombre.

Kearney Regional Medical Center Case Study by WDM Architects-6

Measure of Success

Download Case Study


Phase I • Initial Hospital • 2013

58,897 s.f. • $20M 40-bed Medical/Surgical Nursing Unit 4-bed Intensive Care Unit 5 OR Surgical Suites 2-Room Endo Procedure Suite 2 Cardiac Cath Labs Complete Radiology, Lab and Pharmacy services Campus streets and infrastructure development

Phase II • Medical Office Building • 2015

50,000 s.f. • $9.2M Platte Valley Medical Group (29+/- Physicians) Women’s Center Central Nebraska Spinal Surgery Center KRMC Physical Therapy and Cardiac Rehab KRMC Laboratory services KRMC Café

Phase III • Hospital Additions • 2017

67,500 s.f. • $24M 23-bed Surgical Nursing Wing • 38,000 s.f. Surgery and Recovery Expansion Separate Birthing Center, 10 LDRP, 4 NICU • 20,000 s.f. Emergency Department with helipad 6-bed ICU Department Expansion Hybrid OR Suite Facilities and Materials Management Building Multiple interior remodels • 7,000 s.f.

Kearney Regional Medical Center Portfolio Project

View Project