Three years after purchasing the former hospital for $3.6 million, the Town is moving toward a decision about its future.
A steering committee, to include three members of council, is being appointed to engage the public during the consultation process, and ensure the community feels a strong sense of ownership and support for the site’s appropriate development.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero, and Couns. Gary Burroughs and Allan Bisback have asked to be on the committee.
In November, 2017, about six months after buying the property, council approved a subcommittee to review how to move forward with a public process regarding the site’s future. The committee, which included then-councillor Disero, was disbanded at the end of the previous council term.
Public participation in 2018 brought forward suggestions on how to use the property, “and the next move is to take all the information from the public and go out to the world, asking for expressions of interest,” says Disero.
“We’ll talk about what the town would like to see there, and we’ll consider a public-private partnership or a long-term lease.”
The results of any expressions of interest they receive will be presented to council, and council will decide how to move forward, says Disero.
“We need to get started. We need to see if there is anyone out there to help us move forward with this.”
The building could be renovated, or it could come down, depending on the expressions of interest that come forward, she said. “Someone might want to use it, or might say it’s not salvageable.”
The property includes the hospital building and nurses’ residence at the back, as well as the front parking lot. Most of the property behind the hospital is owned by Parks Canada, says Disero.
A lease with the current tenants, negotiated in 2018 to allow the doctors who had offices in the building to remain until Dec. 31, 2019, was extended to continue the lease until Dec. 31, 2020.
The future of the lease depends on the completion of the new medical centre beside Crossroads Public School, says Disero. “I suspect that will probably be renewed for a period of time. There are a whole bunch of variables.”
The hospital committee will discuss a timeline at their next meeting, she says. “We have to move cautiously and get our timing right.”
The Town is currently paying about $61,200 a year in interest on the property, intended to be funded through lease payments, a report to council says, and from fees for the parking lot.
The public consultation held for three months from March 20 to June 20, 2018 resulted in some comments being gathered, but no action was taken. Join the Conversation, the Town’s website for gathering public comments, elicited 45 suggestions for the future of the hospital property, which included living condos or apartments for seniors; a pub art gallery or museum; a multi-purpose complex with seniors housing, retail shops and educational programs; a parking lot; a tourism office, a cultural hub for artists and farmers; tennis and pickleball courts; a new town hall; an indoor mall with a pool and playground; a hostel for low-income travellers; a fine arts centre that could be an art gallery with space for the Shaw Festival; or that the property be returned to Parks Canada.