A rendering of the exterior of Novak Center for Children’s Health | Courtesy University of Louisville

By Darla Carter

Color-coded floors, a nature theme and a player piano are some of the family-friendly elements that visitors will encounter when the Novak Center for Children’s Health opens downtown this summer.

The $80 million center, set to open on South Preston Street by July, is expected to help the University of Louisville to improve the coordination of its pediatric care and speed up the time it takes to get appointments.

Dr. Gerard Rabalais |

“We are providing a new medical home for our pediatric patients and their caregivers,” said Dr. Gerard Rabalais, acting chief executive officer of UofL Physicians, in a news release. “It is a home where we are bringing together nearly all of the services we provide to children in an outpatient setting with a true multidisciplinary approach.”

The 176,000-square-foot building will house UofL’s general, specialty and subspecialty pediatrics programs. Several other departments from the UofL School of Medicine, including neurology, oncology-hematology, ophthalmology, cardiology and surgery, also will have faculty there.

This new building will “be filling a need,” project manager Laura Thomas said on a recent tour of the construction site. Right now, “we cannot coordinate appointments across different buildings and different subspecialties easily or even practically.”

But after this project is complete, a family that comes in for a general pediatric appointment and gets referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist, for example, will be able to get all those services in one place, she said.

“The future vision also is to be able to have multispecialty clinics where the patient stays in a multispecialty room and the different specialists come to that child as opposed to the child having to be moved from various different rooms, even to different floors, inside the building,” Thomas said. Currently, “a parent has to take them to multiple different buildings.”

The children’s health center, taking shape between East Chestnut Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard, is the first new health care delivery facility to be built in the Louisville Medical Center area in almost a decade, according to UofL. Messer is the construction manager.

David Novak

The building, which is named for former Yum Brands chairman David Novak, will have eight floors plus a lower level, and its exterior will be covered with terra-cotta tiles in various colors, Thomas said.

Outpatient services of the Wendy Novak Diabetes Center will move to the facility from the Children’s Hospital Foundation Building. Norton Children’s Hospital will have some offerings, such as laboratory services, at the new building.

Going to the doctor can be scary for kids, so steps have been taken to make the experience “much less intimidating and more fun,” Thomas said.

Each floor of the facility will be associated with a color and an animal to help families, such as those who don’t speak English as their first language, to navigate, Thomas said. People would know they’re on the yellow floor or the bear floor, for example.

For further convenience to families, who sometimes travel from out of town, there will be a retail pharmacy that faculty and staff in the area will be able to use as well, Thomas said. “It’s a great tool.”

Also, the children’s health center “is a very long, narrow site, so we’ve put in a tremendous number of windows to let light all the way through,” she said.

A pedway bridge linking the new building to the UofL Physicians Outpatient Center and the Chestnut Street Garage, will have benches with an interactive feature that will make it look like bubbles are moving away when people touch the benches.

“It’s almost like they’re creating their own artwork on the bench,” Thomas said.

The building, which also will have a player piano, is expected to receive nearly 120,000 patient visits a year.

Here is a look at the recent tour, plus a few renderings from the University of Louisville: