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.
"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."
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
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