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Articles / 2009

Ask the director: To meet seismic standards, CMH needs new building

Ventura County Star
Thursday, 04/16/2009

Saving lives. Saving jobs. What could be more important? The former is always job one, and, given today’s economy, the latter is at the top of everyone’s to do list. Redevelopment of the Community Memorial Hospital is about doing both at the same time.

Community Memorial Hospital is one of Ventura’s major institutions. Through two world wars, a major depression, the upheaval of the 1960s and today’s economic crises, CMH has served the people of Ventura. Undoubtedly, the presence of CMH ranks equal to police, fire and other critical public health and safety operations.

Also, for nearly 40 years CMH has provided medical services at its existing building. However, that needs to change.

In 2005, California passed a law requiring all hospitals to comply with new seismic standards by 2015. Although the current building survived the 1994 Northridge earthquake, it will not meet the new state standard.

The state has raised the seismic hospital standards in recognition that medical facilities must survive to care for the casualties from a monstrous earthquake. Unfortunately, the only viable solution for CMH is a new hospital building. Fortunately for Ventura the new building will be located right next to the existing one.

For nearly one year, CMH and city staff have worked together to develop a plan to redevelop the hospital district. The proposal envisions a new main hospital building, a new parking garage, a new cancer treatment facility and new plaza.

The idea is to build more than a new hospital; the idea is to create a special place where the hospital makes an architectural statement and the public spaces are well conceived.

I started by saying, saving lives and saving jobs. Clearly, we want CMH to remain to fulfill its first and primary mission: save lives.

However, as a community we also have compelling business reasons for CMH long-term viability at its present location.

Basically, CMH is a major employer, business anchor and economic multiplier for Ventura. In fact, did you know CMH is the largest non-government employer in the city of Ventura? Did you know CMH employs nearly 2,000 people? Obviously, CMH employs people across a range of skill level, meaning there are jobs for a wide segment of the community.

Additionally, CMH provides economic stability to the mid-town area of town. CMH is an anchor whose presence keeps many nearby businesses in business.

For instance, visitors to CMH often patronize restaurants and other local retailers. Also, CMH buys goods and supplies, and often those come from local merchants. Without CMH, local businesses would have few customers, and there would be less business-to-business transactions.

Last, the wages of CMH employees multiply throughout the local economy as they spend.

CMH’s redevelopment plan has yet to be approved, and there are several more steps in the planning process. I would encourage you to follow and participate in the process. You can find more information about the CMH plan at: http:www.cityofventura.net/cmh.

— Nelson Hernandez is the city of Ventura’s Community Development Director

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