By Liz McKeen
The 40-acre “park” that was Lansdowne is about to be raided – again. Lansdowne 2.0 development proposals are on the table (see elsewhere in this issue of the Glebe Report).
Storied Lansdowne Park began in 1868 as 40 acres of city-owned land set aside mostly for agricultural events. The first Central Canada Exhibition (the Ex) was held there in 1888 and continued until 2010. Lansdowne was also a venue for housing and for mustering troops in the Boer War and in both world wars. In 1947, the Catholic Church held a Marian Congress there that attracted up to 250,000 attendees and featured a procession of parade floats along The Driveway and the 13-year-old Dionne Quintuplets singing hymns, followed by spectacular fireworks. In 1952, Lansdowne was the designated spot for survivors of a nuclear attack to gather for food and water (but I guess that didn’t happen).
Along the way, Lansdowne has been an important sports venue – for hockey, football, soccer, curling, figure skating and more. The Aberdeen Pavilion hosted the Stanley Cup championship games in 1904. In the 50s, there were horse races which later morphed into stock car races (see photos in the October 2022 issue of the Glebe Report).
All this to say that Lansdowne has always loomed large in the life of the city and of the Glebe. No wonder, then, that the turnout was large at the City of Ottawa’s public information session on April 27 on the Lansdowne 2.0 development proposals, with some 150 online participants. The speakers were well rehearsed with prepared answers to submitted questions. But the main thrust from the public on the proposal focused on the same complaints as ever: the disappearance of greenspace; the lack of trees for shade; the three new high rise condo towers with what some viewed as just a questionable nod to affordable housing; more retail, despite what many see as a track record of retail failures; inadequate public transit; and the large financial risk that taxpayers would be required to undertake.
Can Lansdowne be saved as an important city asset, as an iconic landmark redolent with history and vitality but also with a thriving, vibrant future?