GCA appeals Lansdowne 2.0

Photo: The Glebe Community Association’s appeal of the city’s Lansdowne 2.0 decision will shed light on planning issues largely ignored in Council discussions, including the loss of greenspace.

Photo: Liz McKeen

By Carolyn Mackenzie


The Glebe Community Association (GCA) has launched an appeal of City Council’s decision last November to move forward with the $419-million-plus redevelopment proposal referred to as Lansdowne 2.0.

Last November, Council approved amendments to both the City’s brand-new Official Plan as well as the zoning bylaw to allow the project to proceed. The appeal is expected to be heard by Ontario’s Land Tribunal in the coming months.

The appeal will focus on the significant loss of greenspace because of the proposal to put the new arena in the green park area, rather than, say, rebuilding it where it is today. It will also focus on the scale of the two proposed towers.

It’s important to understand that Ottawa actually does have policies acknowledging that as the city grows, we need to ensure it is “livable” for residents. Some of this policy sets out how much greenspace is to be provided for residents. By the city’s own account, the inner urban area is already underserved in terms of greenspace. Lansdowne 2.0 plans to add upwards of 1,500 new residents to the site. In addition, the number of residents will increase even more due to the continuing intensification of the Glebe and the inner urban area more generally, according to the City’s Official Plan. Has the City made the case for how reducing greenspace at Lansdowne while adding residents makes good planning sense or conforms with its own newly minted Official Plan? Arguably, no.

The appeal also asks if permitting two very tall towers (up to 40 storeys) to loom over the Aberdeen Pavilion, the Square and very popular patio areas makes good planning sense. The City’s own Urban Design Review Panel (UDRP) made some pointed comments about how the towers were likely to put the success of this public gathering space at risk. While the City seemed to listen to the UDRP’s clear recommendations to remove the third tall tower in the original proposal, it appears to have ignored recommendations that the remaining two towers should be more appropriately scaled. After all, a key objective of the redevelopment proposal is to attract another million visitors annually. It’s critical that the redevelopment focus on ensuring that Lansdowne is an attractive place for people to gather and stay, to work and play. This is not an attempt by the community to block additional housing onsite; rather, it’s to seek improvements to a plan that puts the future success of Lansdowne at risk.

Neither of these issues garnered much attention during Council discussions last fall. This is perhaps not surprising. After all, the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) proposed Lansdowne 2.0 to address financial failures every year since Lansdowne was redeveloped in 2014. OSEG is focused on getting a new deal with the City and with taxpayers. With so much focus on the contentious financials, which is made more difficult by a lack of transparency, little room was left for discussion of these actual planning amendments. But their approval will have long term implications for the community and the city as a whole. That is a real shame, but again, not surprising, given that Council was being asked to vet such a complex deal as well as these amendments over the course of just a few days.

Filing an appeal with the Ontario Land Tribunal provides an independent assessment by a quasi-judicial body of whether the proposed amendments to allow Lansdowne 2.0 to go forward are justified. It should allow for a real discussion of these issues, governed only by policies set out by our provincial government and those put in place by our own City Council, not by short-term political interests or the interests of the private sector partners involved.

In the coming weeks, the Glebe Community Association will be advancing the appeal. The GCA will look to this community and others – the project has impacts on the entire city – and we look forward to your feedback and support to make the strongest case possible.


Carolyn Mackenzie is chair of the GCA Planning Committee.

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