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Finishing touches: final checklist underway for new North Bay hospital.

Contractors are putting the finishing touches this fall on the biggest construction project in North Bay history.



When the $345-million North Bay Regional Health Centre officially opens its doors January 30, it will mark the completion of the first hospital in Ontario constructed under the Alternative Financing and Procurement process.

Built by the consortium of Plenary Health and PCL Contractors, North Bay has written the playbook for this relatively new method of public-private delivery method of hospital infrastructure.

There were challenges as with any major construction project, said Dave Smits, the interim vice-president of faculty services and transitional planning, but "we came out of it quite well. We managed to deliver our goal of being on time and on budget."

The centre will also be the first Ontario hospital to incorporate both an acute care hospital and a mental health centre of a combined 388 beds.

Smits said a great deal of time has been spent working on blending the respective corporate cultures and even labour agreements of two hospitals and the Northeastern Mental Health Centre into one cohensive entity.

With the hospital reaching what's known as 'substantial completion' this past summer, the main portion of construction is done and the facility is now in the hands of hospital administrators.

While it seems much of the heavy lifting is over, there is plenty of work left in cleaning up any deficiencies identified during final inspection and getting all the complex building systems working properly

"There are a ton of small details that you need to make sure are looked after so that all of the pieces fit together," said Smits.

A small contingent of administration has already moved into the 720,000-square-foot complex in a kind of "burn-in period" to address any operational issues that could arise before clinical staff and patients move in, said Smits.

Hundreds of incoming staff were being oriented to their future workplace in September and the centre's warehouse has been steadily filling up with new diagnostic imaging equipment and furniture along with used equipment being transferred from the North Bay General Hospital properties.

"We're expecting a multitude of tractor trailers coming through," said Smits.

Excitement and anticipation in the community have been building since construction kicked off in 2007. The transition into the new Highway 17 complex will include a three-day grand opening in December before operations begin in January.

In mid-September, up to 12 contracting firms were on site doing touch-up work with drywall, electrical and mechanical systems. They were also installing diagnostic imaging equipment and fixed lifts in all patient rooms.

Smits said the signature design of the new facility is the architects' decision to incorporate wood wherever possible in both structural and decorative ways.

"It is very bright and there's a lot of natural light into all the key areas, which is a great value."

Besides the extensive ventilation code and air conditioning requirements, the health centre was designed and constructed under LEED-certified principles.

Smit said it was an exercise that promoted rigourous environmental stewardship values but also forced a great degree of design coordination between the architects and engineers.

"I believe that's paid dividends through the construction period. PCL managed to recycle 75 per cent of the construction waste coming off this property as opposed to ending up in a landfill."

In the meantime, four properties belonging to the North Bay General Hospital are up for sale including the city's two hospitals, the McLaren site (the former St. Joseph's Hospital), the Scollard site (the former Civic Hospital), the Cooper House and the Nipissing Building.

Nine developers and individuals had picked up information packages by September and administrators expect to start reviewing the submissions in mid-October.

Smits said they'll continue to take submissions until they strike a deal. After the January transfer is complete, the hospital will only have three months of carrying costs to manage those empty buildings.

Overall, construction activity in North Bay is chugging along at its usual busy pace.

Shawn Killins, the city's chief building official, said there seems to be plenty of confidence in the local economy. It appears to coincide with the resurgence in manufacturing activity with Boart Longyear looking for new employees, Minesteel Fabricators constructing a new $3-million addition and the new Goodyear Tire retreading plant moving into full operation.

Buildings statistics showed 77 single family dwellings and five multi-family dwellings with a construction value of $23 million. Killins said they're on track to surpass last year's total starts of 78 singles and three multiple units.

"All indicators are that residential will remain steady. The homebuilders tell us they keep putting up houses this fall to keep the trades working through the winter."

On the institutional and commercial side, Nipissing University is building a new library and expanding their athletic centre. There are new Toyota, Mazda and Kia car dealerships and a new stripmall development is underway in the busy McKeown Avenue corridor. Union Gas on Charles Street is doing a 11,000-square foot addition, and the Ontario Provincial Police have upcoming plans for a major development of their headquarters at Gormanville Road and College Drive.


Northern Ontario Business
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Title Annotation:NORTH BAY
Author:Ross, Ian
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Oct 1, 2010
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