Baltimore's resort-like hospital


The new nine-story Gudelsky patient tower at the University of Maryland Medical Center at Lombard and Greene streets is a sight to see.

The $90 million tower looks like a resort hotel. Glass elevators for visitors whizz over the atrium's palm and olive trees which, a guide informs, are ancient "symbols of health and prosperity." Patients have separate elevators because "confidentiality is one of the hallmarks of this building."

The building's patient rooms are color-coordinated. Virtually all rooms are private, some have views of the Camden Yards ballpark. Each floor has a lounge and a conference room -- and a service desk for those who need to make travel arrangements or restaurant reservations.

"We believe we are in the retail business of health care delivery," says Dr. Morton I. Rapoport, president and chief executive officer of the medical system. Since patients can choose, a hospital has to be able to compete with both superior professionals and attractive facilities.

The Gudelsky tower will be opened to patients in sections, starting Saturday. It is the latest symbol of the dazzling transformation that is taking place at UniversityCenter, an increasingly important concentration of medical and academic facilities.

Since the old University Hospital was privatized 10 years ago, those institutions have spent more than $1 billion in new construction and rehabilitation in the area.

Major projects currently under way include a $27 million health-science facility and an innovative biomedical research hub. Across from Gudelsky, a $24 million information services building will rise next year.

Calling the concentration a "neighborhood of discovery," the university's president, Dr. David J. Ramsay, underscores the facilities' importance as a major employer. Some 11,000 people work in UniversityCenter, he says.

The current wave of expansion is expected to spawn a number of spinoffs. If they materialize, officials think offices, scientific and laboratory facilities will eventually stretch from the campus to Charles Center, occupying many buildings that are currently underused or vacant.

UniversityCenter is a success story that is certain to attract increased attention in the next several months as other new buildings take shape. What is needed now is a way to spread its success to the residential neighborhoods on the other side of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, a busy six-lane road that connects to the region's interstate network. With plans for a new townhouse community and other improvements, that west side residential area is ready to take off.

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