Parking, green space dominate public delegations for new Civic campus

Dozens of residents argued The Ottawa Hospital should not receive one of its final approvals to build a new $2.8-billion Civic campus, telling city councillors the project still has major problems with excess parking and lost green space.

53 delegates registered to speak to new hospital campus at Experimental Farm

The public would reach the new Civic campus from an entrance on Carling Avenue. Ambulances would enter at an underground location at the back of the building. (The Ottawa Hospital)

Dozens of residents argued The Ottawa Hospital should not receive one of its final approvals to build a new $2.8-billion Civic campus, telling city councillors the project still has major problems with excess parking and lost green space.

Those two concerns dominated the 53 delegations at a joint meeting of the City of Ottawa's planning and built heritage committees. City staff have recommended councillors approve the site plan.

Staff said councillors should lift restrictions and allow the development of 21 hectares of the Central Experimental Farm near the intersection of Carling Avenue and Preston Street. Remaining issues would be addressed as the project proceeds through its 10 phases, they suggested.

Some residents see it differently, planning committee heard Friday.

A design rendering of the proposed new development of The Ottawa Hospital's Civic campus as seen from the south. (City of Ottawa planning services report)

Karen Wright of the Civic Hospital Neighbourhood Association said the city needs to do more proactive work to limit the effects of cut-through traffic and parking on the surrounding area

Wright suggested more oversight and preemptive studies to consider traffic impacts, and she recommended the province move the "H" hospital signs from the Parkdale Avenue exits of the 417 to the Carling/Kirkwood exits.

Paul Saurette from the Dow's Lake Residents' Association echoed support for slowing down the process so traffic-control measures can be in place to lower the risk of speeding.

"The hospital is designing this from scratch, it's entirely predictable. You have the experience of the old Civic hospital to guide us," he said.

Several delegates raised concerns about the felling of hundreds of trees, many more than 100 years old, to make way for the project.

The master site plan says the hospital is committed to preserving 40 per cent of the existing tree canopy and has committed to replacement planting, as well as having a green roof on its four-storey parkade, which is part of the first phase of construction.

Coun. Shawn Menard included this illustration of space dedicated to automobile use in his comments to highlight the use of surface parking in the proposal. (Coun. Shawn Menard/City of Ottawa planning report)

Diane McIntyre said she was skeptical of the viability of the replacement planting scheme.

"Let's not pretend that we can replace trees on the roof of a building. That is ridiculous," she said.

Jason-Emery Groen, the lead architect on the project from HDR, said landscape architects have determined that "thickets" of birch can be planted on the parking garage to create a landscape. He said birch is also significant to Indigenous groups and used in medicine. 

Marion Crowe, the first Indigenous appointment to the hospital's board of governors, said the hospital is trying to find Indigenous uses for 533 trees on the site, as well as relocating some of the deep-rooted trees to other National Capital Commission (NCC) properties.

New hospital needed

Ottawa Hospital staff also spoke to committee about the disrepair and inadequacy of the current Civic campus.

Matt LeBreton, assistant manager at the Civic intensive care unit, said the new facilities would allow the city's main trauma centre to work even better in the event of other mass casualty events, such as the 2018 tornadoes or the 2019 Westboro bus crash.

"A new campus would provide more direct access to the emergency department. It would provide built-in advanced technologies for research and quality improvement," he said.

"The new campus would allow us to transition to our pandemic capacity in the ICU more seamlessly ... Our infection-control infrastructure would be modernized and provide a better patient experience day-to-day."

Dow's Lake resident Niko Flemming, who called in from receiving cancer treatment at the General campus, urged councillors to not delay the improvement of languishing health-care infrastructure.

Dr. Jamie Fullerton, chief of staff at the Carleton Place Hospital, reminded committee the hospital is the only place to get certain procedures for the entire region and that makes parking availability an important factor.

"Patients and families who live in the deeper Ottawa Valley have no public transit. For better or worse, they need their cars to get to The Ottawa Hospital and they need to park them," Fullerton said.

"Clearly, we need a central accessible hospital for all the people of the region."

The ICU at the current Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital. Staff at the hospital told the planning committee the new facility will have more adaptable and technologically-advanced patient rooms. (Submitted by Alicia Robblee)

Joanne Read, who is representing The Ottawa Hospital through the application process, said parking is one of the biggest pieces in the design because of the Civic's role as a regional trauma centre.

She said some of the surface parking is also meant to work as a staging area for admission of patients if there is a major trauma event.

The hospital site will have a total of 3,099 parking spots, two more than the minimum required under current zoning. They said they're working to make it as easy as possible to access the site by public transit.

The choice of placing the hospital at Dow's Lake raised the ire of many a few years ago. Friday's discussion didn't allow councillors to revisit that debate, but several delegates returned to it anyway, and reiterated their preference for the Tunney's Pasture site originally proposed by the NCC.

Former Ottawa city councillor and mayoral candidate Clive Doucet repeated his call for a public inquiry into the site selection process, saying it was "criminal" how the public was excluded. Another delegate expressed concern local taxpayers could pay more for the site because the cost estimate for the project is several years old.

Read said the hospital is still asking for the same amount funding from the province and is in the process of raising $700 million in the community, with about half coming from fundraising and the rest from a combination of retail revenue and parking fees.

She cautioned further delay on the file may make it harder to compete for provincial funding.

The planning committee will reconvene on the file Monday morning at 9 a.m.


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