Office of Councillor Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward, Ottawa | (613) 580-2485  |
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Civic hospital open house: first thoughts

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Tonight, I attended the City’s public open house looking at the new Civic campus of The Ottawa Hospital at Dow’s Lake. For weeks I’ve been receiving your comments and thank residents for copying me on those. I haven’t yet provided any “formal” feedback to the City on the proposed site plan and on which I’m expecting to have to vote at the end of August and then again in early September.

For some concerns, I’d like to continue to work over the long-haul to mitigate some of the new campus’ effects on the local community. However, there are some considerations I have that, tonight, would lead me to vote against the master site plan and encourage my colleagues to do the same.

I won’t oppose the Hospital on the basis that there are likely to be traffic impacts. But, we need to insist on some mitigations. Those mitigations are likely realistic, and I share the same asks as many residents with respect to measures such as signage to make the Kirkwood/Carling exit the main eastbound ramp, measures to slow and discourage traffic from using Sherwood and Champagne and other measures that encourage the use of arterial roads. Residents have suggested creative measures such as making Parkdale a one-way south of the Queensway that are worth exploring. None of these are prohibitively expensive. I believe staff should be insisting on a modest contribution toward mitigations to be developed between me, the community and the City. I recognize those won’t be spelled out by the time we vote this fall, and that’s okay. But they are very much on my mind approaching that vote.

The Hospital’s insistence on considering Sherwood as a main route to the hospital is perverse, however. I would like to hear a change in that fundamental assumption, and a commitment made to changing highway signage, before I can support this proposal.

I’ve also heard an earful about cycling. As residents can guess, that’s near and dear to my heart. The current pathway system through the site is part of a north-south cycling spine that connects destinations like Lansdowne and further to our ward in a safe, segregated way. The hospital as proposed would interrupt those connections. Given the importance of the project, I’m willing to work on alternatives, though those will need to be equally safe, segregated, and thoughtful.

There are some clear deal-breakers, though. First and foremost, I am not willing today to vote for a plan that imposes a four-storey parking garage in Queen Juliana Park. I’ve seen the renderings and I’ve heard the promises that re-locating the park on top of the parking garage will be an attractive space. Bluntly, I’m cynical and don’t believe it. I don’t believe the City has the tools to enforce a pleasant, welcoming, programmed space built four storeys above grade that will serve the wider community. I do believe that it will likely be a useful space for those visiting the hospital and staff, but I also believe it represents a net loss of important public realm in the community where we are too quickly losing useful public space.

Even more distressing to me is the possibility that we may approve this master site plan without a funded plan in place to ensure a brilliant connection of the LRT to this campus. This is the most fundamental discomfort that I have. I can absolutely foresee a situation in a year, two years, three years when all the best intentions that the City, Province and Hospital become an apology and “we tried”.

Make no mistake. The Hospital’s success in the long term depends on drastically shifting the arrival of staff, visitors, and even patients attending regular appointments to the train. While the City is busy building the LRT to the east, west and south, it will all count for nothing if the connection from Dows Lake Station is long, isolated and unpleasant. I’m extremely cynical – especially when I hear that the solution may be a pedestrian overpass – that we’ll be able to encourage transit use to the degree that we need to.

I will not vote to approve a development of this scale, so nestled into existing communities and in one of Ottawa’s most iconic locales, without a realistic, believable plan for great public realm and for great public transit. I’m excited by the Hospital project. I’m not a naysayer and I believe this could be a positively transformative project for an area that one way or another will see massive changes in the coming decades. But let’s get the pre-conditions for its success right.

Residents can continue to provide comments to the City at, and I'd be grateful to be copied on those as well.

Posted June 29, 2021
Civic hospital open house: tonight's open house reaction