Edmonton

Camsell housing plan moves ahead after Edmonton city council agrees to rezoning

The Charles Camsell hospital site in northwest Edmonton is closer to a new lease on life, 24 years after it closed and 16 years after architects bought the building. 

Rezoning allows higher building west of hospital, four-storey complex to the south

The Charles Camsell hospital has been vacant since it closed in 1996. (City of Edmonton)

The Charles Camsell hospital site in northwest Edmonton is closer to a new lease on life, 24 years after it closed and 16 years after architects bought the building.

During a public hearing Tuesday, city council approved a rezoning request to allow an eight-storey building on the site west of the former hospital.

Gene Dub, the architect behind the project, said the rezoning will also allow the developer to build a lower four-storey complex for seniors to the south. 

"The number of units on the site does not change, so there was no increase in density," Dub told CBC News in a phone interview Tuesday. 

The entire site stretches from 113th Avenue to 115th Avenue and west from 127th Street to St. Albert Trail and will eventually contain 580 to 590 housing units. 

Dub said about six months ago, a Christian housing developer expressed interest in the land to the south but didn't want to build towers. 

With the rezoning approval, the developer is expected to start building the first phase of 172 seniors' units next spring. 

It's a major step forward after the hospital and site sat vacant for two decades.

The hospital was used to treat people Indigenous communities in the north suffering from tuberculosis in the mid- to late 20th century. 

Dub and his partners bought the building in 2004, eight years after it closed as a hospital. 

'Such a relief'

"It's such a relief because this has been such a difficult project," Dub said. "We have done maybe 20 buildings where we have found a new use for an older building but none of them have been as difficult as this one." 

Dub said they discovered millions of dollars worth of contamination. 

"The building was lined with asbestos," he said. "It was sprayed and difficult to remove." 

Some initial investors said they wouldn't pay to remove the asbestos and it took years to get new ones on board. 

Dub said it took six to seven years to remove the asbestos.

The site is in Coun. Bev Esslinger's Ward 2. She said many residents will be happy to see the site developed. 

"People that live there have been waiting a long time to see that project done," Esslinger said. "It's just tiresome." 

The eight-storey building planned for the west side of the hospital can't be any higher than the hospital, she confirmed at the meeting.

That was one concern from a handful of residents who joined the public hearing Tuesday to oppose the project. 

Mary Jo Gariano has lived in Inglewood most of her life and is worried about higher density on the site.

"There'll be more traffic," Gariano said. "As well with the development around the whole perimeter of the Charles Camsell site, even more traffic."

Emanuel Caparelli said in a mainly residential neighbourhood, he wasn't looking forward to another tower west of the hospital, in the rezoning application listed as area A. 

"We've had to have this giant eyesore, this abandoned hospital in front of us for years and years now," Caparelli said. 

"It would have been nice maybe if area A could have had a park or something, not another giant building. It seems a little bit excessive." 

The city report says notice was sent out to surrounding property owners and the president of the Inglewood community league on July 31.

"No responses were received," the report says. 

The Inglewood community league supported the rezoning change, president Abby Burbank told CBC News Tuesday. 

"As Inglewood neighbours we are eager to see significant progress made on the Camsell site," Burbank said in an email. 

The Camsell hospital and adjacent two-three storey townhouses to the north will be ready by next fall, Dub said. 

A four-storey apartment building with 88 units is currently underway south of 114th Avenue.

Dub estimates the entire project will be complete by spring 2022. 

@natashariebe

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