Reader Commentary: EVA and Women and Children's Hospital
By Roger Schroeder
The community-planning gathering hosted by the Elmwood Village Association on December 1, asked participants to 'vision' our blocks of the Elmwood Village. That block definition is loosely centered around Bryant and West Utica cross streets to help direct discussions.
While we tried to focus our visioning process on neighborhood-wide issues, we were constantly and obviously faced with the impact of our most significant neighbor, Women and Children's Hospital, and proposed hospital expansions. Many had attended specifically for that reason.
A majority of discussion centered around specific parts of the plans to add space and parking, with no real visuals of what was going where (searching later I could find no plans of the hospital's proposed expansion in the media). In many cases our planning process for large projects do not reach their potential because of a lack of alternative analysis (with visuals) to stimulate our best group thinking. This project has great potential to benefit or negatively impact all stake holders because of it scale and intimacy to the surrounding neighborhoods.
The ideas proposed are as follows:
1) A five story ambulatory on Elmwood where existing surface parking now defines the corner.
2) Construction of multi-story new parking ramp with overhead connection to the campus over Hodge.
3) Creation of residential lots along West Utica to replace an "out of place" business district, with additional parking lands reserved behind the existing ramp (for residents and hospital potential uses).
The "vision" idea is to create a compact, more intimate "urban" campus--tighter to itself and closer to the urban life of Elmwood. It is not a solution, but part of a process of alternative analysis with the hope of exposing the following opportunities:
Better for the users: Doctors staff and patients get better more exciting environment (better rents). Patients and Doctors get better vehicular and pedestrian access (to compete with suburban sites).
Better for the Image: Denser more upscale integrated urban design creates the image of a state of the art facility with a focused vision.
Better for the surrounding residential neighborhoods: Tight integration of the campus boundaries clarifies and enhances the edge and potential pleasing contrast between each other. The attractive aspects of this edge is enhanced and reinforced with landscaping, paving, signage and lighting.
This alternative will hopefully contrast significantly with existing plans and stimulate all parties to fully explore the potential of this great opportunity. If not, can someone please up the ante?
Image credits : The street photo and building rendering overlay are the work of the editorial's writer, Roger Schroeder.
Google image with overlay by Roger Schroeder.