Wed. Oct 27th, 2021

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With approvals of local plans from the Ottawa Council this week and the National Capital Commission last week, shovels could be in the ground for the first phase of the new $ 2.8 billion Civic hospital as fast as next spring.

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Work will not begin on the main hospital until 2024, but construction of the 2,500-square-foot parking lot on Carling Avenue west of Preston Street was due to begin in the spring, hospital director Cameron Love said.

After weeks of sometimes heated debate about the project’s impact on green areas, trees, traffic, cultural heritage and transport, the project has entered a new phase: implementation.

Many details, in particular the selection of contractors and the connection of the LRT to the site, have yet to be worked out, but the approvals represent a removal of the major obstacles to a modern civic hospital, which is expected to open in 2028.

With the original Civic hospital building strained at the seams, Love said the past 18 months have made it clear why a new Civic is so badly needed in Ottawa.

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“We are finally in a phase where we are able to build a world-class healthcare system for patients and families for generations to come,” he said. “If people did not understand the importance of health care before the pandemic, they certainly do now.”

It has been a long road and one marked by controversy. Planning for a new hospital to replace the century-old Civic on the corner of Carling and Parkdale avenues began decades ago. The choice of a hospital location became a political football before several levels of government agreed on the current location, in the eastern corner of Central Experimental Farm.

The first part of the multi-year construction project, which will begin to take shape — the four-story parking garage — has been the focus of some of that controversy. Opponents say its construction will require trees to be uprooted, and it should not be located next to Dow’s Lake, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Rideau Canal. The parade will occupy part of Queen Juliana Park. Hospital plans include building green space on the roof of the parkade, including a tennis club that will be displaced by hospital construction.

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The hospital has committed to replacing each tree to be taken down for construction with five new trees. Love said the hospital also plans to lift and move full-size trees and use wood from those who cannot be rescued for art. The hospital consults with a native advisory group on tree removal, tree planting and which trees, among other things, can and should be moved, he said.

The start of work on the parking garage will mark the official start of construction on the site, but some work is already underway. It includes work on demolishing a cafeteria designed by famed architect Hart Massey, the western annex of the former Sir John Carling building, something that cultural heritage advocates had lobbied to be saved.

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The annex was left intact when the main building of the federal government was demolished in 2014. Love said the components of its unusual design will be reflected in the new hospital.

In the coming months, further consultations and detailed planning will continue on a number of aspects of the project. Some of this design work includes building an accessible covered walkway between LRT and the hospital and consulting with people from across the region on transportation and access to the new site.

Concerning concerns about the loss of green space to the hospital, Love said TOH is building a world-class health center — the region’s only trauma and tertiary referral center — in the city’s core that uses less space than similar constructions around the world.

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“We must create a spectacular hospital for future generations. The country it is on is at the heart of Ottawa. It allows us to integrate with green space. From a wellness perspective, green space is crucial for patients and families, ”he said, adding that the project will maintain bike paths, pedestrian areas and access to parks and facilities around Dow’s Lake. He called the project “the best of all worlds”.

When construction begins on the largest 650-bed hospital, there will be between 1,500 and 2,000 workers on site most days.

Getting closer to construction is a milestone, he said.

“It’s really exciting for the whole organization,” Love said. “It’s about a world-class building, but the bigger piece for us is how this sets the stage for how we deliver world-class healthcare for the next 100 years.”

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