BOSTON (CBS) — A controversial plan to expand Boston’s Children’s Hospital — a plan that would place a new building in the place where its healing garden now stands — has been approved.

“The Prouty Garden is a loss to all of us, but the needs of the children, the needs of the families, the needs of the staff is first and foremost,” said Sandra Fenwick, President and CEO of Boston Children’s Hospital.

But before that decision was made by the Massachusetts Public Health Council, opponents of the $1 billion expansion project held a rally at the State House in a desperate attempt to save the garden.

The vote for the hospital’s plan to build an 11-story building means the end for the Prouty Garden, a nearly 60-year-old healing oasis that has become sacred space for sick children and their families.

A woman whose brother died after being treated at the hospital says his ashes were scattered in the Prouty Garden. “Essentially this decision, in regard to the Prouty Garden, where they’re essentially going to destroy the garden, means that his remains are going to be desecrated,” said Elizabeth Richter.

Protesters marched from the State House to the Public Health Committee meeting earlier Thursday.

The Prouty Garden at Boston Children's Hospital. (WBZ-TV)

The Prouty Garden at Boston Children’s Hospital. (WBZ-TV)

“We think that a project over a billion dollars is a gamble, a $1 billion-dollar gamble for Massachusetts,” Gregor McGregor, attorney for the Friends of Prouty Garden, told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens. “The states are simply too high to consider in an hour or two.”

He says the project started out as an effort to save the garden, and developed into “a major economic, political, and moral debate” about the increases in health costs he says the expansion would bring. The group was asking for a 60-day delay to accommodate input from insurance companies, retailers, and small businesses.

But Michael Widmer, the former president of the Massachusetts Taxpayer’s Foundation, said the expansion project would help more children and boost the local economy.

“It is unfortunate that the Prouty Garden will have to go,” Widmer told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Bernice Corpuz. “But Children’s Hospital has made other arrangements to have replacements for a garden.”

Proposed roof garden at Boston Children's Hospital (Image from Children's Hospital)

Proposed roof garden at Boston Children’s Hospital (Image from Children’s Hospital)

Children’s Hospital told WBZ-TV in a statement in August that, when the plan is finished, there will be 20 percent more green space at the hospital.

The expansion would also create three new outdoor spaces in lieu of the Prouty Garden, but opponents claim the spaces are too sterile and are not designed with children in mind.

In addition, Gov. Charlie Baker has already given the project a thumbs-up.

“The vast majority of this project is about upgrading existing capacity,” he said. “It’s a 70-bed increase, but almost all of those beds are associated with NICUs and ICUs, and very high-end services.”

Widmer says the plan’s benefits outweigh the loss of the garden.

“The trade-off is difficult, I understand the supporters of Prouty Garden,” said Widmer. “But in the end, clearly, modernizing and being able to save children’s lives is the most important factor.”

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Lana Jones reports

  1. Bc Phillips says:

    It seems SO WRONG to me that this garden has to be removed! Is there anyway possible this garden could stay in place just as it is, and build around and over it. This is an outlet for those that are sick, a ‘get-away’ spot, a spot for relief, a spot to grieve, pray, rejoice. It is a site where ashes have been scattered of those that have passed, a place where parents can visit and feel closer to their children that are no longer there.

    More room is needed to treat the ill. Yet, in all of this ‘going forward’ and treating more patients, you should NOT ABANDON those STILL IN NEED of this garden.

    Having access to this garden is one reason many children have been able to cope with their illness. For parents of these children, it has served as an outlet where the parents and children can feel ‘normal’, getting out of the hospital room, the equipment and the sounds and smells of a hospital. Other parents who have lost their children have been able to re-visit this garden with memories of their children experiencing a bit of happiness while they were still quite ill and receiving treatment.

    FIND ANOTHER AREA TO BUILD. Please do not destroy this garden of happiness, a cemetery for others, a remembrance of joy, a garden of eden. Build your hospital, extend your services to new patients, but LEAVE THIS GARDEN to the parents and children who have held it in their hearts WITH THE MEMORIES OF THEIR CHILDREN who are no longer here and to all the new patients who will need to experience the wonders of this garden.

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