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Articles / 2008

CMH construction plan draws concern from city officials

Ventura County Star
Thursday, 09/11/2008
By Tom Kisken

Ventura city leaders praised the footprint for the construction of a new Community Memorial Hospital but expressed concern about how the six-story, about 80-foot-tall structure will look.

Parking merged into a plaza area, a three-story glass wall and a general look that one councilman described as too sterile all drew comments at a conceptual design review workshop Wednesday night.

"I think the building is a little harsh," said Brian Brodersen of the city's design review committee. "It leaves me feeling a little harsh."

The workshop on a hospital plan that is still conceptual was held for the design review group, the Planning Commission and the City Council. It marks the formal beginning of a city approval process that is key to the hospital's race to build the new facility by a deadline brought by changing state seismic regulations.

Hospital officials want to complete the $300 million project by 2013 but also want the buffer of a state extension that could establish a deadline of 2015. To qualify, construction plans need to be submitted to the state by the end of the year, said hospital President Gary Wilde.

The hospital doesn't need final city approval by the end of the year but is looking for early conceptual plan feedback that will help it meet the deadlines.

"If we burn time or we burn money, we won't have a nonprofit hospital in 10 years," said City Manager Rick Cole.

The new building will sit adjacent to the existing hospital on Brent Street and Cabrillo Drive. It will have 242 beds and all the rooms will be private. There will be expansions in intensive care, operating rooms and emergency care.

Hospital officials said the facility will be as green, or environmentally friendly, as possible. The existing hospital will remain but won't be used for in-patient care.

The project has been portrayed as the cornerstone of reviving the city's midtown area.

"It's probably the most important thing we're going to do in the time we sit on the council," said Councilman Brian Brennan.

Many people praised the hospital's overall site plan and plans for healing gardens and other green areas. Some city officials suggested plans for the campus facade had changed too much since a community planning process was held this summer.

Councilman Neal Andrews cautioned city leaders about calling for changes that will go beyond the hospital's already tight budget.

At the end of the workshop, the city's design review committee gave initial approval for aspects of the conceptual plan but also asked the hospital's design team to keep working on the facade and other parts of the project. City officials raised the possibility of another special design review meeting on the project.

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