Thoughts on the proposed new Ottawa Hospital Civic campus
by Joseph Federico
The location of the new Civic campus of the Ottawa Hospital has been proposed as a portion of the Central Experimental Farm on Carling Avenue near Dow’s Lake.
In my view, typical of how many development projects have unfolded, the Ottawa Hospital Civic campus decision-making process was usurped and the narrative changed.
From the City of Ottawa Greenspace Master Plan: “Ottawa distinguishes itself from other large cities by virtue of its being “green” with an abundance of parks, rivers, woodlands and rolling countryside that contribute in large measure to the high quality of life offered to all its citizens. These greenspaces are the legacy of actions taken by visionary community builders in the past. While Ottawa is proud of this green heritage, it cannot rest on past actions alone.”
There are currently many human uses on the proposed site. One would wonder, then, why this site over other locations? Of all the locations proposed, this is probably the greenest and most mature. And in terms of taking public comments into consideration, how likely is it that people will actually continue to walk or ride their bikes through the hospital property? How many people does one currently see cutting across the Civic Campus? Hospitals are busy places with people coming and going and ambulances coming in on business of the most urgent nature. Hospitals are not welcoming to the casual stroller or cyclist, nor would one choose to risk a stroll or bike in a high-traffic area. This is simply common sense.
Provincial budgeting to hospitals is fixed. In search of a balanced budget, if it comes down to a choice among beds, services and programs, and landscaping, which is likely, understandably, to win?
I cringed when I heard presenters refer to “the evidence” at the January 31 public meeting on the proposed campus: “The evidence that natural settings are good for health, that natural lighting creates a better environment for staff and patients, that single patient rooms are better for recovery.”
Evidence is the foundation for everything we do as health-care professionals. We base care on evidence, we make decisions based on information to ensure the best outcomes. To achieve this, we satisfy ourselves as health professionals by reviewing the literature to find the best treatments that carry the least risk.
Yet, the results of the 280-page National Capital Commission study that involved 7,000 respondents were ignored and discarded. From the outset, the process for deciding the location was the dreaded “b” in research lingo–biased.
Moreover, the hospital said that it would do “every study” there was to do: site plan, traffic study, environmental impact study, etc. Yet, the city is poised to approve amendments to zoning and the Official Plan before the studies have been completed. The “safeguard” is that an “H” or holding provision will be placed on the approval until the study reports are produced. But once the approval is given, is it likely that it will be reversed, studies or not?
Like many other development projects, the starting point for discussion is outside the boundaries. We negotiate and compromise from a starting point that is outside the rules, with outcomes that seem like a win, but are hollow.
Evidence and informed decision-making result in good outcomes. Shouldn’t this be the minimum mandatory requirement for a legacy project that will impact Ottawans for many generations?
Joseph Federico has been a Glebe resident for over 20 years and owns a physiotherapy clinic in downtown Ottawa. You can follow him on Twitter @Joe_Ottawa.
Booth Street Complex redevelopment: one step closer
by Sue Stefko
Canada Lands Company (CLC) held a public open house on February 15 to unveil its draft preferred concept plan for the Booth Street Complex. While the company purchased the land in the fall of 2015, the public process started slightly more than a year ago in January 2017. Then, as now, nearby residents expressed much interest in the site as what has often been touted as Ottawa’s answer to Toronto’s distillery district, with approximately 100 residents out to see the unveiling.
While a number of people were concerned about the height of the site’s five proposed towers and some expressed concern regarding what the development would do to traffic, congestion, and already-present parking woes, the majority of attendees were pleased to see the plans for the complex, as most of the property has been sitting idle since well before Natural Resources Canada declared the buildings surplus in 2011.
The plan maintains the heritage buildings on the site, buildings that were built between the 1930s and the 1950s. To the delight of many local residents, the smokestack, which was not in fact declared as heritage but is seen by many as a community icon, will be maintained. The site will feature a city park as well as a number of privately owned but publicly accessible areas such as courtyards and sitting areas. The plans for the site include environmental features such as permeable paving and green roofs to allow for adequate drainage, a welcome addition in a heavily developed part of the city marked by asphalt and other hard, impermeable surfaces.
While the use of the buildings has yet to be determined and will depend on the developers and tenants ultimately interested in the site, the area is expected to include a mix of residential and commercial uses, including the possibility of office space. To the relief of many residents, large chain stores are not likely to be interested in the development due to the relatively small size of the buildings’ footprints (imposed by the existing size of the heritage buildings).
Attendees expressed concern as to whether the development will actually be like the friendly, animated spaces shown in CLC’s promotional literature. While both CLC and Stantec, the architectural firm that designed the site renderings, agree that the community will not see exact replicas of the buildings on the site, every effort will be made to keep the environmental, heritage and community-friendly features of the plans intact. This will be helped by architectural guidelines laid out by CLC that will help ensure the green spaces and publicly accessible areas remain intact. Likewise, heritage designation will ensure that developers, to the extent possible, will keep the buildings in place.
Considering development timelines for projects of this size, CLC is looking to move fairly quickly. The company plans to submit updated zoning applications to the city this month and by the end of the month, will start remediating the site. While some of it was recently remediated, a good deal of the site is still contaminated. It’s expected that once these steps are completed, CLC will start marketing to developers in early 2019. While firm timelines cannot yet be predicted, it is hoped that shovels could be in the ground by 2022. Whether the site will be developed by one developer or split amongst a number of different developers has yet to be determined.
This project is one of several that promise to transform the neighbourhood south of the 417 in the years to come. The first is of course the condo boom occurring at the south end of Preston Street. While a number of projects have been delayed due to slowing sales, the potential development of more than a dozen condominium towers with up to 2,000 units will significantly change the feel of the neighbourhood. In addition, another large area has been declared surplus by Natural Resources Canada: a 3.3 acre, 300-parking-space parking lot between Bell Street South and Lebreton South at Carling Avenue, acquired in 2017 by CLC and is soon to be developed by CLC and the Algonquins of Ontario. Finally, rumours persist about the condition of the Booth Street Complex buildings built in the 1950s, particularly the sprawling buildings at 601 and 615 Booth that could yield a development area of up to 14 acres. These projects and others in the immediate vicinity, such as the new Civic hospital site south of Carling Avenue, promise or threaten to change this neighbourhood dramatically within the next number of years. Watch this space!
Sue Stefko is president of the Glebe Annex Community Association.