One-Year After Groundbreaking | Oct '19

The Highs, The Lows and What's Next

Patient and campus under constructionPatient at Groundbreaking Celebration and the West Park campus under construction in April 2019

Oct. 11, 2019 - Exactly one year ago, feelings of excitement and anticipation filled the morning air at West Park as 200 staff, patients, family members and volunteers eagerly marched to the rhythmic beat of a drumline troupe that opened the Groundbreaking Celebration.

Since the momentous occasion, construction activity has dominated the scenic views of the campus with the promise of more to come. It’s a reality patients, family members and staff have had to face. 

“Construction always takes some getting used to,” says Shelley Ditty, Vice-President of Campus Development and Support Services. “Everyone certainly got a taste of what’s to come in the months ahead. With all the disruption, we just need to remind ourselves that in four years, we will have a new and exceptional healthcare facility that will significantly enhance patient care for generations.”

Recapping the year

Known in the industry as “enabling works,” developer EllisDon has spent the past year preparing for the excavation of the grounds for the new hospital, also known as the “Big Dig.” Since many underground services such as water, fire and sanitary lines were running beneath the footprint of the new facility, construction crews have spent the year re-routing the underground service pipes, so that West Park’s four existing buildings can remain operational during construction.

The other major undertaking is the new main entrance. The Main Building’s current entrance will eventually close because of its proximity to the construction zone. As a result, EllisDon is reconfiguring the former Piano Lounge area into the new entrance and the former Recreation Therapy Patio into the new driveway and drop-off area, which is expected to open in late fall. 

Construction of New Main EntranceWest Park's new main entrance under construction

Other early construction activities include the demolition of the maintenance building. The space has been converted to additional staff parking in order to offset losses in the future. A new temporary maintenance shed has been created to accommodate equipment from the Quonset hut, which will eventually be demolished. 

With all the construction happening across the site, it’s no surprise it brought some high and low points during the past year.

The Highs

  • Underground tunnel. More creepy than historically valuable, EllisDon uncovered a buried forgotten tunnel from the hospital’s earliest days. Built in 1907, the tunnel connected the old Administration (Hammond) Building to the King Edward (Mulholland) Building.

  • Vintage glass bottles. A dozen glass bottles in varying shapes, sizes and colour were unearthed in an old septic tank from the early 1900s.

  • Legoman. As the mascot for construction at West Park, Legoman garnered a loyal following when the Construction Cam was launched. Staff and patients tuned into the live feed to see what Legoman was doing at set times. The very talented Legoman was discovered engaging in various activities like playing basketball, dancing in the rain, leading a tai-chi class, and getting arrested by security.

    • Legoman in basketball jersey

      Legoman was seen playing hoops on the Construction Cam.

      The Lows

      • Tree removal. Progress often means sacrifice. For the progress of the new hospital, the sacrifice meant the removal of West Park’s oldest residents — the trees. The first stage of tree removal was certainly a low point for many staff, patients and family members. Before the tree removals, West Park held an unforgettable Tree and Land Blessing Ceremony presided by First Nations Elder Shannon Thunderbird, who led a powerful, traditional aboriginal drumming ritual to honour the trees and land. When the new building is complete, three trees will be planted in place of every tree removed.

      • New pedestrian. paths and driving routes. As construction crews worked around the site, patients, staff and visitors have had to adapt to new pedestrian and vehicular routes to access the buildings onsite.

      • Parking. Visitors and staff parking were squeezed several times this year. To compensate, West Park converted a portion of the staff parking lot into visitors parking, and even retained a “jockey parking” service for the staff lot. Parking will continue to be a hot topic for many, but during this time of transition, staff and visitors will need to be flexible.

      • With construction active outside, staff, patients, architects, engineers and other consultants have been busy inside, racking up hundreds of hours finalizing the design of every patient room, public space and exterior green space of the new hospital with meticulous detail.  The design takes into consideration accessibility standards, operational flow, environmental sustainability, placement of furniture and equipment, infection control and new technology.

        With site preparation and construction drawings nearly complete, West Park will finally be ready for the construction of the new hospital. 


        What’s Next

        West Park’s new hospital is still on schedule. By early 2020, major changes to the site will stabilize when EllisDon erects its hoarding (fencing) to create a perimeter around the construction site of the new hospital. 

        Here’s a list of major activities staff, patients and visitors can expect in the coming year:
        • The new main entrance and drop-off area will open in late fall. The newly configured space will mimic what the hospital has today with a reception desk, waiting area, patient drop-off, vestibule and canopy to shelter visitors from the weather. 

        • Once hoarding around the construction site for the new hospital is erected, there will be two separate routes to get to the Main Building, and another to the Ruddy, Long-Term Care Centre and Gage Buildings.

        • Known as the “Big Dig,” EllisDon will begin the excavation for the new hospital in the early months of 2020. (Yes, construction can happen throughout the winter!)

        • Also in early 2020, patients and staff can provide feedback on future patient rooms in the upcoming Mock-Up Evaluations. The various patient rooms will be laid out as proposed in the new hospital, complete with hardware and finishes.

        • Campus Development will kick-off Operational Readiness, a multi-year process that will prepare staff on how they will operate in the new hospital. Operational Readiness is a critical component to the move-in of any new hospital facility. Considering the new hospital will consolidate the services of three buildings into one, will more than double the space of our current buildings together (excluding the Long-Term Care Centre), and add in factors like new technologies, working in the new hospital will be vastly different than how we operate today.

        • If the Non-Hospital Development (NHD) project, a second construction initiative aimed to offer housing and related services for seniors and persons with disabilities, moves forward with construction, then West Park will have to look to offsite parking for its staff and volunteers.

          • Campus Development is working diligently on all facets of building the new hospital, from minimizing the impact of construction to finalizing the location of every electrical outlet in the new facility.

            If you have any questions or concerns, would like to offer suggestions, we welcome your feedback any time. Please contact us at ext. 2111 or