Trying to read the future on Lansdowne




John Crump
President Glebe Community Association

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As this column is written, an intensive campaign is underway to encourage City Council to recognize the folly of sinking more than $419 million of taxpayers’ money into the Lansdowne 2.0 proposal.

Efforts included the jam-packed “Let’s Talk Lansdowne” meeting on October 11 at the Horticulture Building where more than 400 people got their first and only chance to publicly voice their opinions about the proposal. A video of the event has been viewed nearly 900 times on YouTube. Organized by the community associations in the Glebe, Old Ottawa South and Old Ottawa East with the participation of many other organizations across the city, the overwhelming majority of speakers opposed the Lansdowne 2.0 proposal.

The plan was released last April but was so flawed the city came back with Lansdowne 2.1 this fall. This revised plan comes just 10 years after taxpayers spent $210 million for Lansdowne 1.0 to revitalize the site “once and for all.”

While it is possible that this proposal will have been voted on by City Council by the time this column is published (it was scheduled to go to full Council on November 10), it’s worth summarizing a few concerns:

  • Tearing down the recently renovated Civic Centre
  • Building a new arena with fewer seats in the park/toboggan hill
  • Building new north-side stands with fewer seats and no roof
  • Tearing down a new retail building and constructing new retail space
  • Building two high-rise apartment towers – 40 storeys and 25 storeys

If approved, construction will last for five to nine years. According to a city analysis, taxpayers will be on the hook for over $300 million in new debt. This money could be better used to build affordable housing, fix public transportation and respond to the current climate emergency – even the idea of a green roof on the new arena has been shot down.

The Glebe Community Association opposes this plan. The GCA and others proposed ways to improve it. They were ignored. Warnings were issued about the financial viability of the proposal including one from former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page.

The usual voices tried to use the NIMBY brush to tar anyone who spoke against the plan. But Lansdowne 2.0 isn’t about the Glebe, it is a city-wide issue. That’s why 70 members of the Federation of Community Associations (FCA) passed a unanimous motion opposing the development.
To quote FCA president Robert Brinker, “Our members are concerned about the enormous amount of public funds for a public-private partnership project based on dubious assumptions and uncertain benefits.”

No matter what the outcome, thanks are owed to all the volunteers who organized the public meeting and other information sessions, analyzed reams of dense planning documents, made well-thought-out proposals to improve the plan, stood outside in all weather at the Farmers’ Market with the 3-D model the GCA commissioned, wrote to the mayor and councillors.

Lansdowne 2.0 is just the most egregious example of the kind of unequal struggles communities face all the time. Perhaps by the time you read this, the vote has been delayed or council has rejected the proposal and sent staff back to the drawing board. If either of these things has happened, then maybe there is a chance to make this important public property work for everyone.
If not, rest up – Lansdowne 3.0 may be only a few years away.

Community safety concerns
On September 24, a meeting to discuss community safety was attended by members of the GCA, GNAG, BIA, Parking Services, Ottawa Police, Shawn Menard, an outreach worker from Centretown and members from the community.

The meeting was held to discuss community concerns about the increase in crime, drug use and homelessness in our community. These increases unfortunately reflect what is being seen throughout Ottawa and in other cities across North America. To really make an impact, more affordable housing and supportive services are required. This requires an investment from all levels of government.

One immediate response to the current situation is an increase in security in the parking garage on Second Avenue. The Commissionaires have been hired as security guards and the city is looking at putting up fencing on the higher levels. A list of resources will be made available to the community for Mobile Outreach Teams to help with homeless and at-risk individuals, how to have needles picked up or how to contact mental health crisis lines.
The next GCA Board of Directors meeting takes place Tuesday, November 28 at 7 p.m. at the Glebe Community Centre.

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