Ottawa Hospital to review controversial site for new Civic campus

The Ottawa Hospital has decided to review whether the land across the street on the Experimental Farm remains the best site for its new campus, CBC News has learned.

Hospital to hold public information meetings beginning in March

The Ottawa Hospital Civic campus on Carling Avenue has been set to move across the street to land belonging to the Experimental Farm. (Michel Aspirot/CBC)

The Ottawa Hospital will review whether the 24-hectare Experimental Farm lands are the best site for its new facility, according to the hospital president and CEO, Dr. Jack Kitts. 

In an interview with the CBC, Kitts said eight years ago the hospital undertook its last review of some 12 possible locations, favouring the Experimental Farm land across the street from the current Civic campus.

But feedback from the community since that decision "has led the hospital to reconsider whether the choice is still the best option," said Kitts.  He said the hospital will see whether new options might have become available,

Leslie Maitland, a spokesperson with the Coalition to Protect the Central Experimental Farm, said she welcomes the news. 

NCC rebuffed 1st attempt to acquire land

"I'm hoping the outcome will be a serious consideration of other sites," said Maitland. "I think what didn't happen in 2007 was a complete understanding of the scientific and historic significance of the farm."

The first time the hospital requested the site, the National Capital Commission refused, citing the significance of the site both for its significance to national heritage and agricultural science.

Using the same land assessment from 2007, the hospital asked again six years later but that time received approval.

That approval eventually led to the announcement in November 2014 by then Minister John Baird, that the Experimental Land would be leased to the hospital for $1 a year.

Local opposition led to Minister calling for review

But since the announcement there has been strong local opposition.

Maitland's group, a coalition of close to 50 heritage advocates and agriculture and climate change scientists, sent a letter to several federal cabinet ministers, including Environment Minister and local MP Catherine McKenna.

Last month McKenna said she would review the consultation process that led to the decision to green light the project.

Maitland said since the 2007 review, other sites more appropriate may have become available. 

"There are other potential sites for the hospital so that we could end up with a win-win situation in which the hospital gets the site it needs, and the farm can continue to conduct the important research that it does," said Maitland. 

But Kitts is not excluding the Experimental Farm as a real possibility, suggesting it would still be the most central and convenient spot to build the new facility.

"We're working with the federal government and the city to ensure it is the best spot, and can we re-configure in order to have, as I would call it, the hospital and the farm as opposed to the hospital or the farm."

A spokesperson at the hospital confirmed public information meetings will begin on March 7.