Parking garage for new Civic hospital gets committee's OK

Ottawa's planning committee pushed through a eight-hour meeting on Thursday and approved The Ottawa Hospital's plans for a parking garage for the new Civic campus at Dows Lake, even though some community members called for a delay.

4-storey parkade would be the first structure at the future $2.8B campus

The Ottawa Hospital's future parking garage for its new Civic campus would be four storeys with 2,500 parking spaces and a rooftop park, as seen in these documents submitted to the City of Ottawa. (The Ottawa Hospital/Parsons)

Ottawa's planning committee has approved The Ottawa Hospital's plans for a parking garage for the new Civic campus at Dows Lake.

In a nine-to-two vote at the end of an eight-hour meeting — one that saw councillors come and go to deal with the convoy protest — the committee endorsed the site plan for the four-storey garage with 2,500 parking spaces and a rooftop park and sent it back to city staff to finalize.

City council had already approved last fall the master plan for the entire $2.8-billion hospital campus, set to open in 2028 and become among the priciest projects ever built in Ottawa.

Part of the reason the hospital wanted to keep approvals moving, said executive vice-president Joanne Read, was to start construction and avoid losing purchasing power as costs rise.

The first structure to go up on the new campus will be the parkade on the eastern edge at Carling Avenue, Preston Street and Prince of Wales Drive, atop the Trillium O-Train line. 

If construction begins this spring, the garage could be finished by the end of 2024, added project manager Graham Bird. 

In sketches, the hospital's architects laid out how the parking garage would include 310 secure indoor bicycle parking spots and another 225 outside. A winding path would lead to a rooftop park with a play structure, an Indigenous garden and four courts for the DARA tennis club, as it will lose its long-standing location to the future hospital.

3 dozen speakers

More than three dozen people gave public delegations, from physicians and patients to neighbours and environmental advocates. 

Many were concerned the two interior roads would create bottlenecks and traffic congestion and hadn't been properly studied. 

Accessibility was another major issue, given the nearly half-kilometre long connection between the current Carling O-Train station and the front doors of the future hospital. A "high-line" pathway would eventually cross the roof of the garage and arrive at the level of the hospital's doors. 

Others called replacing Queen Juliana Park with a rooftop space "green-washing." Members of an environmental youth group prepared a video with background music about wanting to save trees at the Central Experimental Farm. 

But hospital physicians and patients said parking is important for families left circling looking for parking at difficult times in their lives.

Marcie Stevens, a survivor of the 2019 bus crash at Westboro Station, told planning committee Thursday that having adequate parking at the future Civic Hospital campus was important to her. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

'Important to me'

"Parking, as vulgar as it may sound, is important to me," said Marcie Stevens, a survivor of the 2019 bus crash at Westboro station who's done extensive rehabilitation at The Ottawa Hospital.

Hospital visitors do not only live in the city with access to transit, Stevens said, noting her family visited from rural villages and outlying areas.

Capital ward Coun. Shawn Menard asked that city staff discuss with the hospital ways to improve accessibility, such as adding benches and outdoor washrooms, and include the community on the study to manage traffic.

River ward Coun. Riley Brockington, who represents the area, asked that staff work to improve cycling connections. Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper also asked staff to work with the hospital on a plan for managing construction and to require it maintain the park in wintertime and keep up the landscaping long-term. 

In the end, councillors Brockington, Scott Moffatt, Glen Gower, Laura Dudas, Allan Hubley, Tim Tierney, Catherine Kitts, Cathy Curry and Jean Cloutier voted in favour of the site plan, while Leiper and Menard voted against.