(adjacent to Westminster Ponds)
London Health Sciences Centre has released a request for Expressions of Interest (EOI) for the Western Counties buildings and land adjacent to the Westminster Ponds. The hospital is seeking information from interested parties who will have the capacity to renovate and sustain the existing buildings while respecting the cultural heritage, environmental and veteran-care related past uses.
LHSC has completed its master planning and has deemed these building and lands to be no longer required for hospital-related purposes. In addition, LHSC is confronted with the ongoing funding constraints facing hospitals in Ontario. This has led to a purposeful shift away from any aspect of hospital business that does not directly or indirectly support the provision of patient care
LHSC recognizes the importance of these lands to the community and is committed to working closely with the community and a range of stakeholders to seek divestment solutions that would ensure stewardship of this unique property going forward.
At the southern edge of its property, London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) owns a section of environmentally sensitive land located immediately adjacent to the Westminster Ponds area known as the Western Counties property. This is an area of great community interest given its unique geological, environmental, historical, veterans care and cultural heritage. On this land are four buildings, with cultural heritage designation, two of which are currently rented to tenants.
In the early 1970’s, Victoria Hospital acquired the former Veteran Hospital and lands and buildings north and south of Commissioners Road to enable plans to close Victoria Hospital on South Street. The land block south of Commissioners Road, now called Westminster Lands, totaled 250 acres. At the time of transfer, the community expressed concern to ensure the protection of environmentally sensitive lands, veteran's history and the scope of future hospital development on the site.
From 1999 to 2004 LHSC, St. Joseph's Health Care London and the City of London undertook a process with community partners to reconcile long-standing concerns about establishing an Environmentally Sensitive Area designation for certain portions of the Westminster Lands, granting them protection from development encroachment. Both LHSC and St. Joseph's needed lands for health-mission purposes for London and the surrounding region. The extensive process engaged the community and experts in assessing the Westminster Lands to find an evidence-based solution that would satisfy all parties.
As a result, Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) boundaries were established, and buffers and open space zoning was assigned to the land blocks. In 2004, LHSC transferred 102 acres of land to the city to add to the Westminster Ponds ESA, St. Joseph's was allocated 50 acres for health-care and veterans park related purposes, and LHSC retained 100 acres for health and green space purposes.
During this study period, the allocation of land was predominantly based on ESA boundaries. At the time, the Cultural Heritage status of the former Veterans buildings had not been determined, and as a result the buildings related to that use were not factored in the disposition decision in 2004.
In the period between 2004 and 2013, land transfers were executed between these organizations and changes were made to site zoning.
In recognition of the importance of ongoing stewardship of these properties, the Western Counties Health and Occupational Centre Cultural Heritage Plan was established in 2013 between LHSC and the City of London, through which the parties made a mutual commitment to their ongoing conservation, rehabilitation and public accessibility. At the time no budget allocation was possible by either party.
Today, the hospital restructuring is complete and it is now clear that the LHSC-owned land adjacent to the Westminster Ponds is not required for future hospital needs. In addition, LHSC is confronted with the ongoing funding constraints across hospitals in Ontario. This has led to a purposeful shift away from any aspect of hospital business that does not directly or indirectly support the provision of patient care.