Preparation of the land slated for the Comox Valley hospital is expected to begin early this month with land clearing shortly after.
“Work will actually start in early February with the intent that we will be looking at the removal of the trees in that area the last week in February or possibly the first week in March,” said Tom Sparrow, chief project officer for the North Island Hospitals Project, as he hosted a community information session last week.
The 13.37 acres at Lerwick and Ryan roads will be used to build a $334-million, 29,000-square-metre, 153-bed hospital, estimated to be complete in 2017.
Nearly 830 trees will be removed from the site, with almost 50 retained. About 720 new trees, including Douglas fir, western red cedar, pine and dogwood, will be planted, mostly in a buffer area between the site and North Island College, according to media spokesperson Dan MacLennan. He added more trees will likely be planted in a buffer between the site and Queneesh Elementary School, but how that buffer will look is still being decided.
Sparrow noted Queneesh parents made it clear they want a large concrete buffer between the elementary school and the hospital site last week.
“We were certainly told by a number of parents that they wanted one of those large fences that you see that’s along the highway,” said Sparrow.
A couple of information session attendees voiced concerns around the loss of trees, with one man pointing out trees were going to be retained at the Crown Isle Shopping Centre site, (kitty corner to the hospital site), but they had to come down in the end.
Sparrow acknowledged it’s possible those 50 trees to be retained could have to come down, too.
“When you start removing the forest the potential for blowdown is quite significant,” he said. “So they (arborists) have identified some areas where they’re hoping to retain those trees, but quite frankly, if for some reason there’s any health and safety issues around that then we’ll actually have to remove those trees as well.”
Meanwhile, Sparrow said a Request for Proposals (RFP) will be issued in March to the three consortiums (a group of companies) chosen during the request for qualifications phase of the project. Those consortiums are: Arbutus Healthcare Partners, Plenary Health and Tandem Health Partners.
He estimated the consortium will be chosen by October, and construction will start by March 2014.
Sparrow noted land clearing is scheduled about one year before construction is set to start is so that trees and bushes planted in the area have time to establish themselves before construction.
Completion is expected in March 2017, but Sparrow pointed out the move-in date likely won’t be until fall of that year because staff will need to be trained in the new facility first — which will have about $80 million worth of new equipment in it.
The new hospital will have an emphasis on single rooms with private bathrooms. The facility will be built to LEED Gold specifications.
The Vancouver Island Health Authority plans to host more community engagement sessions later this year or early next year during the detailed design phase of the project.
For more information on the project, visit the North Island Hospitals Project page of www.viha.ca.