Towson University officials unveiled the latest addition to the sprawling suburban campus Wednesday as the Institute for Well-Being officially opened in a 12-story structure newly named the Towson City Center.
“What we’re trying to do is say ‘tell us what you need,’ because we are looking for opportunities to serve this community,” said Towson University President Maravene Loeschke, who began her tenure in January.
The Institute for Well-Being stretches across four floors of the former Investment Building near the Towson Circle encompassing nearly 40,000 square feet.
The university is leasing the space from Caves Valley Partners, which purchased the vacant building in 2010 and began a $27 million renovation that recently was completed.
Included in the institute are training centers for the 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students who are studying speech and language therapy at the university’s Speech, Language and Hearing Center, the Occupational Therapy Center, the Center for Adults with Autism and a wellness center. The institute’s enrollment is part of the university’s College of Health Science, which has increased its student body by 126 percent over the past eight years, Loeschke said.
“This is the college that’s really bringing students,” Loeschke said. “But it has been spread out over seven buildings on campus.”
Loeschke said the university has been seeking privately owned space to lease because of the high cost of constructing new campus space.
“I don’t think Towson could afford to build this type of facility from scratch,” she said. “This is the first of many collaborations.”
The new digs, in a high-tech, modern space, also include a young children’s therapy program modeled after a pre-school classroom where children can receive help with speech issues in a cheerful setting with a small playground located just outside the door. One level up, an adults-with-autism life skills center helps more than 100 people ages 18-44 diagnosed with a form of autism to learn independent living skill sets.
“This allows for hands-on training,” said Charlotte Exner, dean of the College of Health Science, pointing to a state-of-the-art rotary chair that allows study of dizziness and balance as part of audiology training.
The building the institute is located in was once known as a “sick building” because employees there — many of whom worked for Baltimore County — claimed they came down with airborne diseases and filed lawsuits in the late 1980s.
Now privately owned, the new clients moving in include the university, Mile One Automotive and the Bagby Restaurant Group, which plans to soon open a farm-to-table eatery on the ground floor called Cunningham Kitchen. Towson University’s radio station, WTMD-FM, is moving into the building this month, Loeschke said.
The university paid $5 million to move its offices and classroom space in, said spokeswoman Marina H. Cooper. Leasing figures were not available, she added.
Institute Director Sharon Glennen said the facilities include some of the state’s only hands-on training rooms for certain health science programs.
“Until now, we’ve been running many of them out of church basements,” she said.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz attended the opening Wednesday and said the institute represented a renewed partnership between the university and the community.
“In all, there will be 2,300 new people coming into the downtown Towson area,” Kamenetz said, of the new institute’s draw of students and faculty as well as patients including cardiac rehabilitation and diabetic patients who have been coming to the institute’s large work-out room since July.
“It’s a real opportunity for businesses in the community.”