CINCINNATI -- Community leaders in Avondale want to stop a plan for Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center to expand in their neighborhood. With a final vote coming Wednesday, that doesn't appear likely.
The hospital is planning a new emergency room and 10-story patient tower that would fill much of the block bordered by Erkenbrecher, Burnet, Hearne and Wilson avenues, north of its two existing patient towers. It also includes a 1,100-car parking garage expansion.
The expansion would cost up to $650 million, create up to 600 new jobs and accommodate a 26 percent increase since 2009 in the number of children spending the night at the hospital.
But it also will require rerouting Erkenbrecher and closing Hearne between Wilson and Burnet, destroying some homes.
Cincinnati City Council's Neighborhoods Committee has a special meeting Wednesday afternoon to consider zoning changes required for the project. Then the full council will consider the issue.
Patricia Milton, Avondale Community Council president, said Children's should consider building in Walnut Hills or Liberty Township instead. The current hospital is big enough, she said, and Children's didn't do enough to build neighborhood support during the planning stages.
The community council voted to not support the zone changes.
"This is not about their work and duty as a hospital to care for the sick and prevent disease. It's about kingdom-building, where they expand their kingdom," Milton said. "The kingdom must not come across Erkenbrecker contributing to the further destruction of another black neighborhood."
Steve Davis, chief operating officer for Children's, said the hospital considered other sites but ruled them out.
"Medicine today has evolved into a very high-tech specialty where as many as 40 providers take care of a child in the ICU," Davis said. "To be able to safely take care of those children, those providers need to be able to be located close to each other."
Michael Fisher, Children's Hospital president and CEO, said the Avondale community had a great deal of input. Seconds -- and proximity -- count for critically ill patients, he said.
"That's why this location connected to our existing buildings right across the street will be essential," Fisher said.
Angela Dockery has lived on Hearne for more than seven years. Her house is in the way of the expansion, but she said she's not upset. The grandmother of 10 used to work at Children's.
"I have plenty of time to do what I have to do to relocate, and me being happy to say that, this expansion is going to happen," Dockery said.
Children’s Hospital spokesman Terry Loftus previously told WCPO the expansion would require removing six to nine homes to reroute Erkenbrecher, which Children's already owns. The hospital will help renters to relocate, he said.
If everything is approved, Fisher said construction would begin this fall and take about five years to complete.
This story contains prior reporting by WCPO.com's Dan Monk.