Transforming the former Sarnia General Hospital into a campus for healthcare-related businesses should spur further revitalization in the area, says the five-member investor group behind the project.
But neighbours wants assurances the proposed redevelopment doesn’t cause parking and congestion problems, and they worry the site will host Bluewater Health’s new 24/7 residential withdrawal management centre.
Investors say the health-care services campus would boast around 130,000-square-feet of office space, with a new 10,000 square-foot-addition at the former Lambton County health unit site.
More than 100,000-square-feet of existing buildings would be removed and 27,000-square-feet of new facilities built, along with 50 additional parking spaces.
“(It will) provide a mix of health-care uses, medical offices, clinics and associated pharmaceutical, laboratory and retail uses,” investor Alex Jongsma told a public consultation meeting at the Lochiel Kiwanis Centre.
There are no confirmed tenants yet, he added.
The meeting was required because the group must win city council approval to rezone the site from its current residential designation to allow for different uses, including office space, calls centres and restaurants.
All of the uses sought in the proposal are related to health care and general office purposes, according to the investors, who include Jongsma, Charlie Dally, Marty Raaymakers, Mark Lumley and realtor Ken Poore.
The restaurant designation, for example, will allow for the opening of a small café for workers in the building, Poore said.
But neighbours worry about increased traffic, similar to when the site hosted the hospital. Visitors often parked on the street then to avoid paying hefty lot fees.
Unlike the hospital, the proposed development would have a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. office flow, Poore says.
The project also calls for more restrictive access to parking lots on Essex Street, including keycard secured entrances for employees.
The proposal is expected to go to city council March 2.
Bluewater Health says it hasn’t decided on a location for the withdrawal management facility. If it is located at the site it will be a discrete facility with “very controlled” access, officials said.
“It does have beds; it is a place where people stay up to a couple of weeks,” said Deb Hook with Bluewater Health.