MANATEE -- As visitors walk through the doors they would think you were entering the lobby of a office building or hotel, not the reception area of the Manatee Glens Hospital and Addiction Center.
A bright and airy atmosphere now greets visitors to the mental health facility at 2020 26th Ave. E., which has recently undergone a major redesign of
the public areas and renovations of many of the patient areas.
"I asked myself how I would like to feel if I was going to visit a relative," said architect Tom Denslow, just before the official ribbon cutting to introduce the public to the upgrades and improvements to the 30-year-old structure.
"We tried to make it not appear so sterile," said Denslow, president of Sarasota architectural firm DSDG, Inc. "and we tried to eliminate any public barriers."
Besides dropping the height of the center of the counter, the new reception desk has a warm wood finish. The lower counter also communicates an open, welcoming attitude that the older, tall counter did not offer.
But the reception area is only the beginning of the improvements Denslow made with the redesign.
The hard, square tile flooring in the public areas was also replaced with carpeting. The walls were painted throughout much of the facility with a light, off-white color that brightens up rooms and hallways.
There's new furniture and wall hangings, and a major renovation of The Bridge, a corridor that connects two areas of the hospital.
The Bridge was not air conditioned and had limited views of the outdoors through tall, thin windows.
Denslow totally enclosed the walkway and installed large floor-to-ceiling windows to let sunshine in.
Mary Ruiz, president and CEO of Manatee Glens, said the improvements are for the patients as well as the public.
"People are in crisis when they come to us," Ruiz said, "and they are scared.
"Our goal was to not make it feel like 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'," she said, referring to the Ken Kesey novel and movie starring Jack Nicholson.
"Of course, this has always been a friendly place," Denslow said. "There's no Nurse Ratched here."
The architect said it was through his discussions with the staff and administration that he came up with the ideas for all the changes.
Heidi Blair, vice president of administrative services, said the renovations has brought Manatee Glens into the 21st century.
"Being fresh and new helps the patient," said Blair, as she showed off the newly remodeled cafeteria, which has a trendy cafe look now. "It makes things more normal -- like going to a Panera's and ordering a coffee and pastry."
Denslow said this was a great opportunity for his firm to work on environmental design.
"We would come with suggestions and the staff would help us make the adjustments," he said, "and we did it all within budget."
The project cost around $220,000 to complete, but Denslow said the upgrades are permanent and the renovations can be easily maintained.
Gail Sullivan, who has been on the board of directors of Manatee Glens for about a year, said the changes are impressive, but the public should appreciate how they are helpful to the patients and their families."People have preconceived ideas of who is going through addictions," Sullivan said, "but from my own experiences I realized it's everyday people going through these experiences of life."