The City’s $3.6-million plans to widen Columbia Street will move to public consultations and design next year to coincide with the fast-moving construction of a clinical/parkade building in front of Royal Inland Hospital.
City transportation engineer Chris Darwent said Friday the street-widening plans have been on the shelf for more than a decade. In that time, the population has grown, as has traffic heading in and out of downtown.
The RIH building plans go to council Tuesday for approval for a development permit. The City has been holding off on Columbia expansion so that the road only has to be torn up once to do any underground pipe upgrades and road reconstruction.
Darwent said the clinical building will be built right up to the sidewalk, but there will be a bus bay built into the road to allow for a stop right in front of the hospital and for a “kiss-and-go” area for dropoffs.
The Columbia Street widening will see a middle-road left-turn bay created at the intersections of Fourth, Fifth and Sixth avenues. Construction is anticipated in 2014.
The City will probably be negotiating with the province over land from the south side of the street, he said.
“We still have to go through the consultation and work on the land. There will be some tweaks to the design.”
The consultation will include residents and business owners. The widening project also includes the option of closing off Second Avenue, which provides access for West End residents.
“We would have to talk to the neighbourhood,” he said.
RIH administrator Marg Brown said there has been a lot of work done to get the clinical/parkade building to this stage. The early-stage drawings have been done for City council, but if approved, detailed drawings will have to be created and a business-case plan sent to Victoria.
The latter has to be submitted to the Ministry of Health by the end of December.
Brown couldn’t yet estimate when construction might begin. Once architectural drawings are done, the project will have to go out to construction bids.
“I don’t know how long it takes architects to get to the design stage done. We’ve accomplished a lot in a short time.”
The drawings show a three-tiered building reaching seven storeys with a 350-stall parkade.
City planning and development manager Randy Lambright said staff are recommending council approve the development permit.
“We had to take the city centre development permit guidelines to compare this with. We had a list of things we worked with IHA on to tweak some things relative to form and character,” he said.
The project has moved quickly since Premier Christy Clark made the announcement on July 11 that the first phase of the RIH master site plan would proceed.
The request for proposals for the design went out on July 27. That was followed in September by Clark committing not just to the $80-million clinical building and parkade, but to the entire $400-million master site plan.
But it will still have to be done in stages.
The clinical/parkade building spans 17,660 square metres and comes with a green roof and ground-level commercial space. It fills almost all of the lawn in front of the hospital, starting right at the Columbia Street sidewalk and rising up to the covered front entrance.
The construction means the loss of 21 trees in front of the hospital — including several large ones — and eight memorial trees will have to be moved.
Lambright said the plans call for a mix of materials, including glass glazing and wood veneer.
“There might be some additional tweaking but this gives us a good idea of what it’s going to look like,” he said of the pictures submitted by Interior Health.
The staggered height means there won’t be a tall wall of building right at Columbia Street so it won’t feel so closed in, he said.
The project value is estimated between $75 million and $80 million.
The parkade entrance will be on the hospital property near the front entrance. The exist will lead onto Columbia Street.
The City is still waiting for projected water and sewer volume demand data from IHA and would like Interior Health to include estimates for the full expansion plans that include a new patient-care tower in future, he said.
“We’ve asked that they plan for subsequent phases so they have adequate capacity for road, sewer and water,” said Lambright.
When Interior Health did similar expansion projects on the hospitals in Kelowna and Vernon, ground was broken 18 months after the initial announcement. However, those projects also included patient-care towers that aren’t being undertaken with RIH at this time.