Feedback on the development of the new Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus

September 2017

Scott Blurton
President, Glebe Annex Community Association

Kate Eggins
Director, Communications and Engagement
The Ottawa Hospital
501 Smyth Road
Ottawa, ON   K1H 8L6

 

Dear Kate,

Thank-you for the opportunity for the Glebe Annex Community Centre (GACA) to provide feedback on the development of the new Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus.

GACA’s mandate is to build a more vibrant, liveable and safer community for Glebe Annex residents. This includes a pedestrian-friendly environment, access to green space, and connectivity to neighbouring communities. As such, GACA believes that the new Civic Hospital should be built to minimize impact on the surrounding communities and environment.

As such, GACA believes in the protection of key and relevant green spaces such as the Central Experimental Farm, a National Historic Site and the site of the world’s second-oldest research agricultural land. This also includes Queen Juliana Park, an important community gathering space which is home to numerous activities throughout the year, such as Victoria Day and Canada Day celebrations, the Tulip Festival, and local charity events, among others. In a neighbourhood marked by increasing density, this park provides welcome green space, and the flexibility to host events that NCC lands that surround it (such as Dow’s Lake and Commissioner’s Park) do not allow. In fact, the park itself was listed as a positive factor in the selection of the new Civic Campus site, as the Ottawa Hospital’s April 2016 Site Selection Review and Information Report indicated that the, “location overlooks the Queen Juliana Park with potential for direct synergies for wellness amenities and recreational relationships within the neighbourhood and community.”

In order to protect these valuable spaces to the extent possible, GACA believes that the hospital avoid the sprawling outdated campus style model that currently exists in Ottawa’ General Campus. The current Civic Hospital is on 23 acres of land, and hospital officials are looking for a parcel more than twice that size. Even considering that the number of beds are increasing from 600 to 700 (or 800), this is excessive. In order to minimize its footprint on important and valuable greenspace, an urban model should be followed. New, urban style hospitals are often built on sites of 10 acres or less. There are numerous examples which should inspire the development of the new Civic campus. For instance, the Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center is a 448-bed hospital which is seven stories tall and takes up just three acres of land. The six to seven storey, 371-bed George Washington University Hospital occupies just 2 acres and is in an urban area that is walkable and transit-accessible.  In Canada, Centre Hospitalier De L’Universite De Montreal (CHUM) houses 772 beds on a footprint of 6.77 acres in two city blocks in downtown Montreal. In fact, Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, both housing more than 450 beds, the Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary housing 600 beds, and Vancouver General Hospital, with more than 1,000 beds, are just a few examples of urban style hospitals built on a small footprint.

While the hospital plans to include healing spaces such as gardens, paths and reflection areas in order to enhance patient experience and speed recovery, this does not need to come at the expense of the greenspace found in federal agricultural lands. Roof gardens, courtyards, and natural light are possible in smaller footprint, urban style hospitals. The Bunting Center at Mercy Hospital in Maryland for instance, contains a multilevel roof garden, which can be accessed and viewed from various floors within the building. The 600-bed Seattle Children’s hospital is situated on 28 acres, with more than 40% of the land dedicated to open space.

This does not compare favourably with the current plan for a 60 acre site, with more than a third of the land dedicated to parking and internal roads. In fact, parking and driving space is planned to take up as much space as the hospital building itself. As Leslie Maitland from the Coalition to Protect the Central Experimental Farm has aptly noted, this means that “20 acres of Canada’s most important agricultural land is literally going to be paved over.” GACA finds this unacceptable.

The hospital has called for 3,600 parking spaces, justifying this by stating that, “Many patients who drive to the hospital for follow-up care recuperating from serious illness or have a chronic illness,” and that, “the hospital can’t be put in a position where there isn’t enough parking and creates a stressful experience for patients and visitors.”

However, this does not speak to the fact that the majority of trips to the hospital will be taken by staff, visitors and clinic patients, who are in fact capable of taking public transit. Given the hospital is adjacent to existing and planned public transportation routes, the desired 3,600 parking spaces should be re-examined. As Councilor Chernushenko has asked, “Shouldn’t an institution dedicated to health actively encourage cleaner and healthier modes of transportation, and aim to reduce private-vehicle use for non-emergency trips, as supported by Ottawa Public Health policies?” GACA believes the answer to this should be yes.

As much as it has been focused on parking to date, the hospital should keep public transit issues in primary importance throughout the planning and development of the site. The hospital and the city should work to ensure that transit decisions be taken in consideration of the future Civic Campus location. Some have called for the future Trillium Station to be relocated to the south side of Carling Avenue, for instance. Others have called for pedestrian access under Carling Avenue in order to avoid pedestrians crossing busy Carling Avenue.

There are in fact many things the hospital should do to encourage its members to consider alternatives to single occupancy vehicle use – whether that means subsidizing public transit passes, providing shuttle service not only from parking lots, as is currently the case, but between the hospital and public transit hubs, encouraging rideshare options for employees by providing preferred parking to car or van pool vehicles, eschewing monthly parking passes in favour of daily parking rates, paying bonuses to workers who forgo single-occupancy driving, encouraging the use of bicycles by employees by providing convenient, secure bicycle parking and shower facilities for employees, etc.

Understanding that many visitors will still continue to drive to the hospital, however, GACA also believes that stacked parking, whether above or underground, is essential. Cost is often cited as a concern. However, the hospital currently generated millions in parking revenue – one estimate is $4 million in parking revenue annually at the Civic location alone. Clearly parking is a profitable venture.  The public should not be expected to subsidize the hospital’s profitable parking venture, paying the price in lost public greenspace in allowing the hospital to pave over 20 acres of irreplaceable land.

GACA wants to see the new Civic Campus fit into our community – we would like more attention to be paid to preserving valuable community greenspace, a greater focus on public transportation, and thoughtful development of a new hospital that focuses on height and density, while still creating comfortable healing spaces for their patients. With creativity, both community and patient needs are able to be met.

As plans become more firm, GACA believes that neighbouring communities should provided an opportunity to have meaningful input to details such as planned emergency routes, traffic studies and other measures which will impact the surrounding communities. The current public consultation should not be the only opportunity for input, considering how little is known about current plans about the hospital’s future, but the Ottawa Hospital should maintain a regular and open dialogue about its plans between now and the hospital’s opening.

Finally, your email indicated that you would like these consultations to be meaningful, inclusive and transparent. GACA agrees, and requests that these community consultations actually be taken into consideration when planning the new site. We are disappointed that we didn’t have the opportunity for input when the federal government acquiesced and named the Experimental Farm site as the future home of the Civic Hospital Campus. Going forward, as a community neighbour, we would like to be consulted on the major steps that will be taken in the creation of the new Civic Hospital campus.

Regards,

Scott Blurton
President, Glebe Annex Community Association