By Peter Kuitenbrouwer
A crowd of Riverdale residents and heritage architects yesterday succeeded in slowing down Bridgepoint Health's plans to demolish its signature semi-circular hospital building, an icon of the lower stretch of the Don Valley.
The hospital has the province's nod to knock down the 1963 hospital and build a new, $200-million facility on the site, one of four buildings it plans for the corner of Broadview Avenue and Gerrard Street.
Hospital officials told city councillors yesterday their building is out of date because the rooms are too small and have no toilets, and patients get disoriented attempting to navigate the curved hallways.
Bridgepoint wants to replace the hospital with four buildings, ranging from eight to 12 storeys. The deal includes selling public land to a private condominium developer, according to a city report.
As part of the complex scheme, the city would get a park on Gerrard Street. The plan would save the Don Jail, which would become hospital administration and doctors' offices, and also save a lawn-bowling clubhouse. The hospital wants to move the clubhouse, though it doesn't know to where.
The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario wants the semi-circular hospital building saved and possibly reused for student housing.
"The existing hospital, designed by Chapman and Hurst in 1963, is a culturally significant, structurally sound community resource," Catherine Nasmith, vice-president of the conservancy, told councilors. "It should be saved whole."
She said if council votes to tear it down her group may appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board.
The city and the hospital had retained a panel, including Ms. Nasmith, to look at whether the building warranted preservation. That panel split, with the majority agreeing it deserves to stay.
Yesterday, a standing-room-only crowd at Toronto-East York Community Council slugged it out for six hours, with many accusing the hospital of trying to push the plan through with minimal community input.
"I have never seen anything in [local councillor] Paula Fletcher's newsletters about Bridgepoint Health's destruction," said Julie McGregor, a Riverdale resident. "This would be like tearing up a Picasso."
The hospital brought a number of backers to plead with the council to help them build a new home.
George Hawryluk, who was in a wheelchair, said, "The doorways are narrow. At one point I had to talk to a doctor in the hallway because I couldn't get into his office."
But locals said it's wrong to paint them as anti-hospital.
"Everyone wants the very best hospital and the very best comfort and care," said Gerald Whyte of the Riverdale Historical Association. "Heritage preservation is a part of this process."
Ms. Fletcher in the end moved to have the city staff report -- which favours the rezoning and Official Plan amendment to allow the demolition -- forwarded to the next city council meeting, on Jan. 31, without recommendation.
"I would like to see a table of options to save the half-round building," the councillor said.
© National Post 2006
Riverdale ripe for condo conversion: Globe and Mail, June 17th, 2005.
Critique of the meeting: Globe and Mail, July 9th, 2005.
Argument for demolition of Riverdale: bad plumbing?: National Post, Nov 11th, 2005.
Demolition of significant modern buildings picks up momentum: Globe and Mail, Nov. 26th, 2005.
History vs Healthcare? Or not...?: Eye, Dec. 8th, 2005.
Riverdale Hospital for wrecking?: Star, Jan. 25th, 2006
Keep historic half-round around as it is: Star, Jan. 26th, 2006.
Demolition plan roundly criticized: National Post, Feb. 2nd, 2006.
Development arguments wanting for logic: Now, Feb. 9, 2006.
Demolition is environmentally unconscienable: National Post, Feb. 17th, 2006.
Locals want to know: Why give land away?: National Post, March 11th, 2006.
Citizens catch Bridgepoint hi-jinx: Now, March 16th, 2006.
Progressives on Council fumble the Bridgepoint
scheme: Now, March 23rd,
Toronto Architectural Conservancy