Lansdowne Park has been a controversial city hall issue for the better part of 15 years. During this term of council, it has come up three separate times. First, during the pandemic, to sustain operations and extend the deal with OSEG; then, when we convinced the City and OSEG to pull back on a proposal to privatize operations for the remaining public portion of the site (the great lawn, the horticulture building, Aberdeen Pavilion and Square and the public playgrounds); and now, with Lansdowne 2.0. You could excuse the neighbourhood for being weary of the ever-changing deal that was struck, albeit amid controversy, just a decade ago.
In July 2021, City Council tasked city staff to work with OSEG to develop plans, cost estimates and a full citywide consultation for another round of revitalization of Lansdowne Park. The immediate impetus for this decision was the state of the north-side stands, including the Civic Centre, as well as public-realm improvements. Nearly a year later, there has been no public consultation, but the project was given “approval in principle” by the Finance Committee on May 6, and it will go to full council on May 25. It would see 1,200 housing units added to the site in three high-rise towers, with a rarely used financial arrangement where taxes from the towers would be allocated to pay for the new debt the city would take on to pay for new north-side stadium stands, a new arena/event centre and more retail and office space. There is also a list of proposed public improvements over several years.
Along with some worthwhile ideas are a lot of questions and concerns. Why was the report released with only seven business days for consideration by the public, without consultation? Why is there no solution for transportation being proposed? Why is the City willing to take on $239 million more in debt to finance this objective over others? Why are the 10 per cent of so-called “affordable housing” units likely to be above market rent for Ottawa if we are selling off public air rights? What about the deal that was struck by the provincial planning authority just a decade ago as to the amount of housing on the site? How much of the public greenspace would be affected by the proposed new arena/event centre?
We went through these questions at a recent Capital Ward Lansdowne 2.0 discussion which you can watch by googling Capital Ward YouTube.
It is clear to most that the original Lansdowne deal has had its shortcomings, most of which were pointed out at the time – a big-box retail mix instead of an urban village, transportation concerns for the 100 events a year, a major change to the financial return the City was expecting from the Lansdowne waterfall (from $93 million to $0) and tree retention issues. The deal has also seen improvements to site use and upgrades to entertainment and sporting facilities.
In 2019, we released a white paper on Lansdowne, calling for it to become truly “A Place for People.” That is what we’d like to see with this Lansdowne Revitalization 2.0. In order for that to happen, the City should allow robust discussion before any decisions are made, instead of putting a stamp of approval on a plan that requires much debate. Residents have a lot to contribute, and they should be heard.
Capital Ward’s Older Adult Forum
On May 19 at 6:30 p.m., we will be hosting Capital Ward’s Older Adult Forum on Zoom, in collaboration with Seniors Watch Old Ottawa South, which has partnered with other seniors groups in the area. We will discuss such topics as the lack of primary care and support services available to the older adult population. Featured panelists include Dr. Laura Muldoon, director of primary care at Somerset West Community Health Centre, and Ann Good, a health consultant with decades of experience helping clients to access homecare and to age in place. You can visit shawnmenard.ca/events to register.
Shawn Menard is City Councillor for Capital Ward. He can be reached directly at Shawn.Menard@ottawa.ca.