CHICAGO (CBS) — The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago broke ground Monday morning on a new $550 million research hospital which will provide groundbreaking care.

WBBM Newsradio’s Brandis Friedman reports, after suffering a traumatic brain injury while serving in Iraq, Army Sgt. Eric Edmundson could barely speak, but on Monday he used a new electronic communication device to introduce U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin at the groundbreaking for RIC’s new research hospital.

Dr. Elliot Roth, medical director of RIC’s patient recovery unit, said the new hospital is “based on the concept that the best outcomes will happen when patient care and research activities are melded together.”

He said the new AbilityLab will specialize in the kind of care used to treat U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk after his stroke 18 months ago.

Kirk also attended the groundbreaking, alongside 11-year-old Jackson Cunningham, a stroke victim from downstate Oakwood. The two met while Kirk was a patient at RIC last year.

The 1.2 million-square-foot 242-bed AbilityLab will be located at 630 N. McClurg Ct., a lot that once was home to the CBS 2 and WBBM Newsradio studios.

The facility will have 900,000 square feet for clinical and research programs, nearly triple the current research space at RIC.

The AbilityLab is slated to open in 2016.

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