The Bridges is located on the lands where the former Calgary General Hospital (Bow Valley Centre) once stood. The opportunity to redevelop this area came about with the closure and demolition of the hospital.
The Calgary General Hospital was located along 1st Avenue N.E., in the inner city neighbourhood of Bridgeland. It was built in 1910 and evolved from a small sandstone structure into a 1.1 million square foot, major emergency-trauma centre. The hospital was housed in several different buildings ranging between 2 and 12 storeys. Prior to closure, it accommodated 1,000 beds and employed approximately 3,000 people.
Owned and operated by the Calgary Regional Health Authority (CRHA), the hospital was later referred to as The Bow Valley Centre after merging with the Peter Lougheed Centre in the mid 1980s.
In 1997, the Calgary Regional Health Authority (CRHA) made a decision to close the Calgary General Hospital and consolidate its services with other health facilities. A Tri-party agreement was signed between the Province, the CRHA and City of Calgary. In it The City obtained title to the 4.05HA (10 ac) hospital lands in exchange for providing the CRHA with a site of similar size for a future hospital in southeast Calgary.
The decision to demolish the hospital created a public outcry as many were deeply affected by the loss of this facility. Generations of residents were born at the hospital; others had worked there, been patients or had in some way benefited by its services. Thousands turned out to watch the well-publicized implosion on October 4, 1998.
To address the concerns, The City of Calgary initiated an extensive planning and public engagement process for redevelopment of the lands.
A decision was made to incorporate adjacent City-owned open space, making the overall size of The Bridges 14.9 HA (36.8 ac). This strategic expansion allowed for more design flexibility as well as providing an opportunity to increase densities close the Bridgeland-Memorial LRT station.
A commemorative wall built from bricks from the Calgary General Hospital was constructed in Murdoch Park where the hospital once stood.