All the major debates surrounding the new Civic campus at Ottawa Hospital are expected to be resolved by mid-October.
Ottawa City staff are ready to submit their report on the master plan for the hospital to the Ottawa Planning Committee on October 1st. This plan will then go to the Council on 13 October.
The master plan outlines how the $ 2.8 billion hospital will look and function in the community. It is to be built on a slope near Dow’s Lake, a site chosen in 2016.
In the last five years, residents have raised many concerns, however – 39 different ones are stated in the report – about everything from the site itself, traffic increases, removal of trees, access for pedestrians and cyclists and preservation of cultural heritage.
But in their report, city staff recommend that the planning committee approve the plan, saying these concerns have all been “carefully considered and designed for.”
Karen Wright, president of the Civic Hospital Neighborhood Association, says this is mostly true.
Over the summer, many public consultations were held and the plan was adjusted, Wright said. The number of trees felled for the project was reduced, and Wright said she was happy to see traffic calming studies are now part of the plan for her neighborhood.
However, the changes are “a step back” from what is actually needed, Wright said.
LRT and underground parking garages remain concerns
One problem left is an above-ground four-story parking garage to be built at Queen Juliana Park. Construction on the garage, which was to begin in March 2020, would also include landscaping on the roof to replace the lost green space.
“It had long been promised to the community, in terms of the green space, that the parking lot would be underground,” Wright said.
But the cost of burying the garage is about $ 250 million, Kitchissippi Coun said. Jeff Leiper, and no one offers to pay.
The garage above will also disrupt a popular bike route, Leiper said. And while the roof terrace may be embraced by staff and hospital visits, the public is unlikely to use it the same way they do now.
“It seems experimental. And it’s a little disturbing, because if the experiment fails, you’ve lost a very large piece of green space,” Wright said.
The plan says the park invites the public to be prepared at a later date – just as the hospital will connect to a future LRT station at Dow’s Lake.
Wright and Leiper want to make sure the connection will be convenient enough for staff and visitors to use it and not overwhelm the available parking.
Councilor to vote against the plan as it is
Leiper, who is on the planning committee, told CBC he would vote against the plan unless his concerns about the garage and the LRT connection can be resolved.
In comments gathered in the city’s report, Leiper urged his colleagues to use their power to push for a better solution. Still, he said he’s pretty sure councilors without a local stake in the project will push it through because of the cost of burying the garage.
The Planning Committee is expected to do two things on October 1: review the local plan and lift what is called a “inventory provision” on the planning.
Typically, site plans do not have to go through the council; when the area is zoned for a project, city staff handle approvals from there.
However, this project is one of the city’s largest, so when zoning was approved in 2018, the council added the condition that the plan be returned to the council at this time.
City staff recommend that once the council determines the master plan, the major issues will be resolved and the approval authority can be returned to them.
Councilors may, however, choose to have phases of the decades-long project sent back to the planning committee for more debate when they emerge.
The hospital is expected to open in 2024, but plans for the site will continue until 2048 with the opening of the new University of Ottawa Heart Institute.