Calgary residents worried about big plans for site of old Grace Hospital

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An application has been filed for the former Grace Hospital site and nearby land, including the Agape Hospice.

The site is next to Riley Park and down the hill from the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. The former Grace Hospital closed in 1996 and is now home to a private health clinic.

The proposal would nearly double the medical and commercial space and increase the building height to six storeys.

Councillor Druh Farrell calls the current application “a bit old school.” She suggested a way to integrate seniors and palliative care with the nearby school and medical facilities.

“Let’s  establish a vision for the site.  It needs to of course, comply with transportation needs and the hard physical needs of the community, but also the social needs of the city at large and the community around it.  It’s a tremendous opportunity that I don’t want to miss,” Farrell said.

“We don’t do innovative seniors’ care well in the city. We have an opportunity on this site because there are all these elements around it.  So let’s ensure that we do it right,” Farrell said.

The Hillhurst/Sunnyside Community Association has concerns with a number of aspects of the proposal including the 800 residential units and a 70 meter tower that would dwarf anything in the neighbourhood.

“I’m not sure that’s the best location for a tower frankly. And there is  a tremendous view from the Jubilee. I think they may be asking for too much,” Farrell said.

Hillhurst/Sunnyside is in the midst of a growth spurt that has seen many multi-family residential complexes constructed along 10 Street and Kensington Road.

“The density creates a super traffic jam,” said area resident William Lee. “We sometimes drive along here and we have found that the amount of traffic has just increased. So I think residents have probably been through a lot.”

Now people who live in the area worry about the possibility of 12 street next to Riley Park being expanded to accommodate more traffic.

“The community doesn’t want to see 12 street widened for a particular development. I really understand that. It’s a beautiful park, Riley Park. And we don’t want a thorough fare going through this neighborhood,” Farrell said. “We have a school that’s incredibly walkable.  So there are a lot of issues but there are  also lots of opportunities, so we need to bring those together to resolve the issues and get the best possible development for this site.”

According to the applicant’s website, the new plans will include land acquired from the province.

“We are excited to be re-starting the conversation with our community after taking 2016 to expand potential opportunities for the redevelopment of the Grace Hospital site. Since our open house held in Sept. 2015 we have solidified our partnering with the Salvation Army to include the Agape Hospice site in the redevelopment vision and are now finalizing the acquisition of Alberta Infrastructure lands along the northwest edge of the property. Our vision for the site has remained consistent since we started this dialog with the community in 2014. The formal inclusion of the Agape site and the Alberta Infrastructure lands will allow us to consider the overall development site more comprehensively and ensure a synergistic relationship with the community,” the applicant stated on its website.

City administration will meet with the applicants next week to talk about the potential for the site. The city is hosting an open house regarding the proposal at the Hillhurst/Sunnyside Community Association on June 29.

The site has been a medical centre as far back as 1926 when the Salvation Army first built the hospital there. It was originally a maternity hospital focused on care for unwed mothers.

For more information, you can go to the City of Calgary website or the appilcants website.

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