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Articles / 2014

Construction to make Ventura hospital huge

Ventura County Star
by Tom Kisken

The steel and concrete structure that will be the new Community Memorial Hospital stretches 443 feet from Ventura's Brent Street almost all the way to Borchard Drive.

The six-story complex stands 104 feet tall at its pinnacle above an elevator tower, about the same height as the eight-floor current hospital just to the north.

But the 355,000-square-foot structure that can be seen from Highway 101 fills a footprint nearly one-third larger than the existing building. That old building will remain after the new hospital opens, creating a main campus of more than 600,000 square feet.

"Yes, it's massive," said Melinda Garibaldi, who can see the west wing of the new hospital from her home north of the campus. "But it's needed."

The $275 million hospital, like projects across California, is being built because of mandates created by the state's changing seismic standards. It will bring a larger emergency room, more operating rooms and private patient rooms. It will be licensed for 250 beds, compared with 242 in the current complex.

Cars will be able to enter off Main Street. The new complex, containing inpatient care, will be called the Ocean Tower. The existing hospital will be the Mountain Tower and will hold administration, outpatient treatment and new possibilities that could include a skilled nursing rehab facility or medical offices.

A 520-car parking structure west of the existing hospital will remain. The hospital and the city of Ventura have proposed partnering on a new 570-space parking garage open to the public.

The garage would be 55 feet at most and six levels. It will be built in front of the new hospital, near the corner of Brent and Main streets. The hospital would absorb the $10.5 million construction cost.

Members of the city's Planning Commission and Design Review Committee reviewed the parking project Wednesday night and asked for design revisions. They will discuss it again Aug. 20.

Although construction of the hospital complex will continue for more than a year, the frame will not grow larger.

"It is a lot bigger than I thought," said Chris Bohney, a high school teacher who lives close enough to the hospital to hear helicopters landing. He is reserving judgment until the project is complete.

"I think having a high-quality hospital in your neighborhood is an advantage for your community," he said.

Many in the neighborhoods nearby praise the project.

"I think it's rolling right along," said Rae Whitney, who lives north of the hospital. "I think the general consensus is: It's long overdue."

Some observers credit the reaction to a construction planning process purposefully opened to the public.

"I think they've done a pretty good job at keeping the community involved," said David Ferrin, chairman of the Midtown Ventura Community Council. He has heard few concerns.

"I've heard a few people comment that they didn't really expect losing their view, but I haven't heard anyone really have a big problem with it," he said.

Others don't mince their words. When Stephanie Harris, who has lived in Ventura all her life, looks toward the hospital from her home, all she sees is the hospital.

"I hate the way it blocks the view of the hills," she said. "It's an eyesore."

A woman shopping at a Vons near the new hospital focused on math. Her husband has health issues, and she asked that their names not be used. She sees the hospital construction as a way to ensure he has immediate access to treatment.

"The ambulance can get him there within two minutes," she said.