Civic hospital releases plans to change a park to parking

By Sue Stefko
(Appeared in the Glebe Report, November 2021)

Any last hopes for an underground parking garage, as initially promised for the new Civic Hospital, were dashed on October 13 when City Council approved the new campus master site plan. The hospital is now moving forward on site-plan approval for a four-storey parking garage in Queen Juliana Park. Construction is expected to start early next year and be completed in 2024.

The first part of the hospital project will include widening the Trillium LRT trench to create a future second track. The Trillium Pathway will be realigned along Carling Avenue, Preston Street and Prince of Wales Drive. It will include a separated bike path and a pedestrian walkway.

The parking garage is expected to have space for 2,500 vehicles and 390 bicycles, including 200 spots for public parking for nearby businesses, NCC activities and seasonal festivals. The four-storey structure will be mostly above ground, with one storey of below-ground parking at the southwestern end. The hospital intends to put up retaining walls and plant trees and other vegetation around the perimeter and it will also step back the top of the garage to minimize its visual impact. While it has yet to be determined which trees will survive construction, the hospital promises to save as many as it can. Unfortunately, many trees that survive this project will ultimately be removed when the multi-use Carling Village Towers are built in future phases of the development.

Some aspects of the garage have changed from the original plan – most notably, the location of the ramp. While it was to start at the north of the property near Carling and Preston, city staff recommended that it start instead near the Preston and Prince of Wales, so that it is co-located with the staircase. This gives pedestrians different options to reach the planned rooftop green space. There may also be an elevator at this location, though that is still to be confirmed.

As the parking garage will be built over Queen Juliana Park, it seems fitting or perhaps ironic that the hospital plans to create a four-and-a-half-acre green roof called Queen Juliana Park. It will include tennis courts for the DARA Tennis Club, which will be ousted from its current location in the Experimental Farm during future stages of construction. There will be a number of zones in the park – a naturalized area with trees, a walking loop, lawns and open spaces for outdoor sports, an amphitheatre and a plaza that can host various activities. The site plan indicates that there is still some flexibility, in that the rooftop could possibly include pickleball courts, a children’s playground or a splash pad. The plan references future consultations with hospital stakeholders and community partners to help determine the specifics.

The rooftop will also include a weather-protected pathway to connect the hospital to a future LRT station. Although the site plan refers to a “potential new Dow’s Lake LRT station on the south side of Carling Avenue,” it appears the station will not actually be moved to the south side of Carling as many have called for. Instead, it seems more likely that the entrance on the south side will connect to or be an extension of the Carling Station platform. These plans have not yet been finalized.

At the time of this writing, the Glebe Annex Community Association was still analyzing the site plan in concert with our neighbouring community associations. Overall, we remain disappointed that an underground parking garage is not going to happen as the hospital earlier promised. We are also concerned about the more than 600 surface parking spots elsewhere on the hospital site.

More positively, there have been attempts to minimize the visual impact of the parking garage, the hospital promises to save as many mature trees as it can and to plant new ones, and it is committing to wildlife-friendly practices such as bird-friendly design. While not a replacement for Queen Juliana Park for walkers, joggers and festivals, there are attempts to welcome and include the public and different types of programming on the rooftop of the new parking garage.