New Era Begins for Northern Door Health Care

After a year of focusing on what’s up with that crazy-looking roof, the focus can now turn to what’s inside Door County Medical Center’s (DCMC) new Sister Bay clinic. 

Staff members have completed their move into the new clinic, combining their Fish Creek services and Sister Bay rehabilitation clinic into one $15 million, 30,000-square-foot facility.

The new space – formulated through many conversations with staff and patients – will allow DCMC to offer more services, providers and staff to a community where some patients often travel an hour for routine services, and others were left in the lurch when Aurora closed its clinic in the village last year. 

Previously, patients had to travel to the DCMC clinic in Sturgeon Bay for services such as audiology and cardiology. Now, the Sister Bay clinic has the capability to host both of those specialty services, as well as provide primary care, behavioral health, diabetes education, OB-GYN, orthopedic services and podiatry. Same-day appointments will be available for patients who ask to see a primary-care provider.

The rehab-facility upgrade is massive, from 3,800 square feet to more than 11,000. Photo by Myles Dannhausen Jr.

Drs. Josh Rebhan and Rory Johnson, plus physician’s assistant Holly Swain and nurse practitioner Courtney Rhein, will all work primarily in Sister Bay. The hospital is also hiring another physician to fulfill demand in northern Door County. 

“We needed this space three years ago,” said Lindsay Donohue, director of clinic services, “so this is overdue. We enrolled 155 new patients in January – by far our most ever.”

The population bump from COVID-19 explains some of it; then the closing of Aurora’s clinic pushed the number further. Now, Donohue said, the opening of the new clinic is drawing more.

What’s the Story with That Roof?

Michael Crawford. Submitted.

From the moment when designs for the clinic were released, they have drawn questions about how the folded-plate roofline would handle snow loads and prevent ice dams from forming.

Although the roof creates a dramatic profile, it also includes several elements to hold up to a harsh Wisconsin winter. Not only are the valleys reinforced structurally to support the inevitable snow loads they will encounter, but the roof is also a “cool roof,” in that the temperature stays consistent to melt snow slowly and evenly, said the project’s lead architect, Michael Crawford, of Caldwell Associates in Pensacola, Florida.

Though from ground level it looks as though the roof has four large valleys, there is actually a subtle center ridgeline that runs perpendicular to the folded plates and helps to move snow and water to the outside of the roof. In each valley, there is a heat-tray system to help facilitate snow melt. 

Crawford originally sketched a concept with heavy timber, but he said that proved too costly to build and maintain. That wood idea was maintained, however, underneath the roof over the south-facing patio to create a striking profile from the street. 

Crawford said that some of the area’s distinctive architecture, which he discovered during his initial site visits, inspired the project design.

“Norwegian and Northern European architectural forms have a dramatic roofline,” he said. “You see it in chalets, churches. Even a barn in an open field has a strong presence. That creates the profile or shape of the building as you come up on it. So we thought we’d come up with a design that had a striking form. There are a lot of buildings that look like condos, but that’s not what the spirit of the place really is. The barns, silos, churches, lighthouses – those create the culture of the place.”

Crawford – and the hospital – did not want to build something that looked like a typical, boxy medical building. Crawford said DCMC’s board president, Bill Mundy, in particular, pushed him to “think out of the box” and try something new. 

“It feels like a community space,” Crawford said. “That’s what [DCMC CEO] Brian Stephens wanted. He showed us the Kress and noted how it doesn’t look like a library, but like a great public structure. That’s the direction they were going.”

Lead architect Michael Crawford described the purpose of the second-story patio, which will soon have tables and seating areas. “We thought of incorporating the patio into rehab programs for walking, yoga and any kind of flexible engagement with the community. I think of it like a front porch on a house. That is our front porch to the community.” Photo by Myles Dannhausen Jr.

Designers met with patients to learn what they love about the hospital and their hometown. What grew out of those discussions is a building that feels as different on the inside as it looks different on the outside. Nearly every room and hallway features large windows that bring the outside in. 

“All this natural light in the building is so good for healing,” said Andy Anderson, director of rehabilitation services at Door County Medical Center, about the walls of windows that soak entryways with natural light. 

“We didn’t want everything enclosed, like a health care system where you’re inside this building, then you leave,” Crawford said.

During the weeks ahead, the finishing touches will be put on the property: landscaping, trees and eventually pedestrian connections. An open house for the public to tour the facility will take place June 11, when Crawford hopes his vision begins to settle into the fabric of Sister Bay.

An open house for Door County Medical Center’s new Sister Bay clinic will be held Sunday, June 11, 11 am – 2 pm. Enjoy a dedication ceremony, prizes, tours and treats.

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