City committee approves 'Lansdowne 2.0' plan

Ottawa's business and tourism community expressed support for the proposed "Lansdowne 2.0" plan, as a city committee approved the $332 million plan to build a new event centre, north-side stands and 1,200 new residential units.

More than 30 delegates signed up to speak about the next phase of the revitalization of Lansdowne Park during a special eight-hour meeting of the finance and economic development committee meeting on Friday.  Some residents and community groups called on the city to defer a decision on the plan to allow for more public consultations and the next council to decide.

Council will vote on the proposal May 25.

The Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group unveiled the "Lansdowne 2.0" plan last week, which followed recommendations by city staff to improve the long-term viability of the area in the Glebe.

"In hindsight, there are two things we should have done differently back in 2010. We should have replaced old, centennial facilities on the site and we should have included more residential on the site," Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group executive chairman Roger Greenberg said.

"Thankfully, we have an opportunity to address those deficits now."

Greenberg estimated the Lansdowne partnership has cost more than $100 million than anticipated.

The project would be completed in three phases:

  • Event Centre: To begin Nov. 2022 and completed Sept. 2024
  • North stadium stands, retail podium, parking: To begin Dec. 2024 and completed May 2027
  • Residential towers: To begin in 2024 and completed in 2029

Ottawa Tourism, the Ottawa Board of Trade and the Glebe BIA expressed support for the plan.

"Lansdowne 2.0 is something to get excited about as our businesses are climbing out of the long pandemic.  The Glebe and Lansdowne is a vibrant place," Glebe BIA executive director Patrick Burke said.

"A vibrant Lansdowne Park creates an economic benefit all the way down Bank Street and it's easy to spend a whole day in the neighbourhood."

Ottawa Tourism president Michael Crockatt told the committee that with other cities investing in infrastructure, Ottawa could miss out on sporting and festival events.

"The aging and functionally obsolete facilities mean that we are increasingly unable to meet the requirements of biz due to these deficiencies,' Crockatt said.

"A new arena and event space will allow Ottawa to bid on and host more sporting events and special events, bringing more visitors and business to our city."

According to the report for the committee meeting, 10 per cent of the proposed units in the residential towers would be affordable housing.

Staff say the plan with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group will “make Lansdowne Park and the Lansdowne Park Partnership sustainable for the next fifty years.”

Staff say the city’s $332.6 million capital contribution for the project will be funded from the sale of air rights, debt funding and some capital budget funding for internal costs.  The city would borrow $239 million for the project.

“The annual debt servicing will be funded by the property tax uplift, ticket surcharge revenue from Lansdowne Park games and events, and waterfall distributions to the City.”

However, the Federation of Citizens’ Association of Ottawa is calling on the city to hold off on any decision about Lansdowne Park until after October’s election.

"The Federation of Citizens Associations (FCA) strongly believes that there needs to be broad public consultation on this $330 million plan involving the City's 40 acre park that includes major city assets, including a stadium, arena, heritage buildings, and parkspace, as well as the commercial developments that Lansdowne 1.0 created,” said FCA president Alex Cullen.

“To this end we believe that FEDCO and Council should defer this report to the new City Council in 2023 and direct staff to develop an extensive public consultation on these proposals.”

The association says the recommendations from city staff for the project are “premature” without the opportunity for public consultations on whether it’s the right plan for Lansdowne Park.

“It is important to remember that this Council is at the end of its term, and in 2 months time will become a legal 'lame duck' Council, with limited ability to make significant financial decisions,” Cullen said.

“It would make sense, then, to take the time to engage in broad public consultation with the taxpayers of Ottawa on these proposals before decisions are made. And to let the new City Council make these decisions.”

Neil Saravanamutto asked the committee why it's rushing a decision on Lansdowne.

"The people of Ottawa were promised an urban village, and with a few exceptions what OSEG gave us was essentially an urban big box mall," Saravanamutto said.

"Now OSEG has been losing money on Lansdowne because it is a fundamentally flawed design, and Lansdowne 2.0 is proposing to give us more of the same experience.

"We are doubling down on a failed strategy."

June Creelman of the Glebe Community Association urged the city to take its time to get the Lansdowne plan right.

"If we didn't turn out the way we wanted the first time entirely, let's take the time to really get it right. There is an opportunity to make it better."

Coun. Shawn Menard, who is seeking re-election in Capital Ward, said earlier this week that the future of Lansdowne Park should be debated during the election campaign.

“I think there are a lot of good ideas in here and a lot of questions, too,” Menard said.

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Ted Raymond