Lansdowne Park – what now?

By John Dance

With the opening of the Flora Footbridge, Lansdowne Park just became more than a noisy, somewhat distant neighbour for Old Ottawa East.

“More money needs to come into Lansdowne Park to have the redevelopment deal pay off for city hall and its business partner,” reported the Ottawa Citizen’s Jon Willing in March.

Lansdowne Park’s Aberdeen Pavillion shimmers in the lights of an Ottawa winter’s evening. Consultations currently underway will help to determine Lansdowne’s next stage. Photo by Peter Fowler .

Now that the renovated park is within easy walking and cycling distance, the future of Lansdowne has become important not just for residents of the Glebe and Old Ottawa South but for those of Old Ottawa East too.

The RedBlacks, Fury and 67s games, cinemas, stores, restaurants and the urban park on the Lansdowne site are now readily available to OOE residents, but this new-found ready access is set against the backdrop of the City and the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) – the operator of much of the park – trying to figure out how Lansdowne can generate greater revenues. And it’s also in the context of Councillor Shawn Menard’s view that the park’s vision needs to be changed so it becomes a “place for people … for families” rather than being “a place of big events and bigger festivals.”

The original deal between the City and OSEG foresaw the City receiving $62 million of net revenues over the course of the 30-year agreement but now the forecast is that the City will receive nothing.

Similarly, OSEG’s revenues are forecast to be less than planned. In April, OSEG committed to complete a “strategic review” to, as Willing described it, “stabilize the financial distribution scheme called the ‘waterfall,’ which sets the order in which the cash is distributed to the two partners.”

The review was to be completed for the City to consider by June 30 but, as of this writing, it remained unavailable. Furthermore, there has been no consultation with the surrounding communities during the course of the review.

Meanwhile, Menard has promoted a new vision for the park that would “close off the grounds entirely to cars (except to access the parking garage),” while providing more pedestrian space.

Another of Menard’s proposals is to “animate Aberdeen Square,” which is the plaza area to the north of the Aberdeen Pavilion. In July, perhaps following up on this proposal, the City and OSEG launched a survey asking the public for their opinions on how to “further enhance Aberdeen Square … to host community and special event programming.”

But this survey seemed to come out of the blue – it had not been raised with the newly constituted Lansdowne Community Consultation Group, and, as noted by Sarah Viehbeck, president of the Glebe Community Association (GCA), “How does all of this fit into a work plan for Lansdowne? What problem are we trying to solve and at whose definition?”

GCA has raised a series of questions about ongoing operations and the future of Lansdowne Park and, thus far, no answers have been forthcoming from the City.

For instance, GCA has asked, “Why are more events considered to be the preferred strategy to increase profits by OSEG? Will this contribute to improvements in the City’s financial return? Is Landsdowne a good deal for the taxpayers of Ottawa? On what evidence is the City making this assessment?”

Richard Cundall represents the Old Ottawa East Community Association on the Lansdowne Community Consultation Group and he may be contacted at lansdowne@ottawaeast.ca for residents who have questions, concerns, recommendations or suggestions about ongoing operations of Lansdowne and the future of the park.

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