The future site of the Ottawa Hospital’s Civic Campus became a little clearer today as the NCC officially recommended a parcel of land on Tunney’s Pasture for the development.
The motion was passed after an internal committee at the NCC evaluated 12 proposed sites in the region, including input from stakeholders and the public.
The proposed site is on the western portion of the Tunney’s Pasture government complex, currently zoned for mixed-use non-federal development. The hospital site would expand past the Sir Frederick Banting and Goldenrod driveways to the east and west, bordered by Goldenrod again at the north and by the incoming LRT Confederation Line and existing transitway to the south.
“Tunney’s Pasture best meets the 21 criteria, particularly in light of the most recent data concerning the future of urban transportation, demographic growth and federal land use in the Capital,” said NCC CEO Mark Kristmanson in a statement.
While Mr. Kristmanson said senior hospital officials were on board with the decision, the NCC’s move runs counter to nearly a decade’s worth of studies and public statements by hospital executives that found moving across Carling Avenue to the Experimental Farm was the best choice.
A panel of health-care experts believed the Central Experimental Farm was the best option in 2007 when the hospital began looking for land, Ottawa Hospital CEO Jack Kitts previously told OBJ. The former Conservative government agreed in 2014 to hand the hospital 60 acres of land at the Central Experimental Farm, near the current Civic Campus, for the project.
On Thursday, the Ottawa Hospital released a statement noting that Tunney’s Pasture was not among the top-ranked sites in its 2008 or 2016 reports.
“The hospital understood that the federal government had a vision and plans for the Tunney’s Pasture development that did not include a hospital. We understand today that there have been recent changes to the vision for Tunney’s Pasture that could enable a hospital to be located there,” the statement said.
“In our 2016 report, we did raise concerns regarding access delays due to traffic volume heading north on Parkdale Avenue from the Queensway. We also raised concerns about the cost and timelines for demolishing existing facilities and relocating federal government departments.”
Parts of the Civic Hospital are nearly a century old, and officials have said a new facility needs to be operational by 2030.
All sites were evaluated based on Capital and regional interests, as well as the interests of the hospital. The committee determined that the Tunney’s Pasture site best matched the needs for hospital layout, accessibility, and proximity to the urban core, among other criteria.
The proposed selection also mitigates impact on the heritage character of the site in question, a concern raised especially in regard to the possibility of using portions of the Central Experimental Farm for the hospital campus.
The construction of the LRT Confederation Line was a key factor in the selection of Tunney’s Pasture, and not for reasons of transit accessibility alone. As the hospital won’t be operational for another 15-20 years, the NCC heavily factored the City of Ottawa’s projections for population growth and urban intensification in the coming years, which the city anticipates will largely surround the east-west line.
Officials said the addition of a hospital is consistent with the long-term plans to redevelop Tunney’s Pasture, which the NCC approved in 2014.
Nearly 8,000 residents responded to the NCC’s online survey for public feedback on site selection and 400 attended a public consultation at the National War Museum. Chief among residents’ concerns were the site’s integration into the transportation network, major crisis preparedness, and emergency access to roads and highways.
A slight majority of respondents also indicated that they would prefer the Civic Hospital not be located on the Central Experimental Farm.
Neither the evaluation committee’s decision nor the final vote of NCC board members were unanimous in recommending Tunney’s Pasture. Nine board members voted in favour of the recommendation, two voted against, and two abstained from voting.
Brian Coburn voted against the recommendation, primarily citing a lack of plan for what will happen to the existing Civic Hospital building if the location moves. The original building site was one of the 12 considered for the new development.
Mr. Coburn also expressed concerns about the fate of the Heart Institute, which currently operates out of the Civic Hospital’s campus, and any associated losses with separating the two. He was told then that the Heart Institute would also move when and where the hospital moves, but it was clarified that the institute is its own entity, separate from the Civic Hospital.
Bob Plamondon told the board that he’s “still digesting” the report, and attributed his “nay” to a lack of information. Another member abstained citing a conflict of interest.
It was Kay Stanley who gave the most vehement rejection of the proposed site. She echoed Mr. Coburn’s concerns about the fate of the original Civic Hospital building and felt that the factor of the LRT line was overstated in the recommendation decision.
“People don’t take public transit to (the emergency department),” she told council in her opposition remarks.
Her stance was that the original option, a location across from the current building and on the Central Experimental Farm was a suitable site, and that co-opting five per cent of the farm’s land seemed reasonable for the development. This, she said, would allow for a continued use of the existing building for uses such as a long-term care facility.
Despite her reservations, Ms. Stanley decided to abstain from voting instead of opposing the motion. She says she felt it was imperative to get out of the decision-making process and get going on the proposed development in a timely and efficient manner.
“We are making this community’s single-most important investment,” Ms. Stanley told the board in conclusion.
The final decision for the Civic Campus’ location lies in the hands of the Ottawa Hospital itself. This vote acts as a recommendation to Heritage Minister Melanie Joly that if the Ottawa Hospital wishes to use federal land for its new campus, she should advise the use of Tunney’s Pasture.