Revitalization plans – take two! City, OSEG Priorities for Massive New Lansdowne Study at Odds with Neighbouring Communities

By John Dance

Last month, City Council approved a massive Lansdowne Park revitalization study focused on replacing the north-side stands and the arena beneath but the Old Ottawa East Community Association advocates other changes that it feels would be more beneficial to surrounding communities and city-wide users.

“We stress the need to prioritize the repair and upgrade of the heritage buildings; the prohibition of development on the ‘great lawn’ and within the public realm; and the need to add several caveats,” Ron Rose, member of the OOECA Lansdowne Committee, noted in an email to Mayor Jim Watson.

The City and OSEG propose to demolish Lansdowne Park’s north-side stands and arena and build new ones with residential units above. Photo by John Dance

The City and OSEG propose to demolish Lansdowne Park’s north-side stands and arena and build new ones with residential units above. Photo by John Dance

Those caveats include: preserving the “great lawn” as a natural grass area; not adding any artificial turf anywhere on the site; recommending that if a modern arena and new north-side stands are deemed necessary, they be built on a site that is served by LRT, not at the traffic constricted Lansdowne site; and ensuring that surrounding communities and their residents are consulted in a far superior fashion than what occurred during the very limited consultations that were conducted over the last six months.

“The neighbouring communities should be directly involved in the animation of the Lansdowne site, rather than relying entirely on OSEG and City staff to make unilateral decisions based on commercial considerations,” noted Ian Sadinsky, member of the OOECA Lansdowne committee.

The new study comes just seven years after the City spent $210 million in its initial revitalization of Lansdowne.

Now, the City and its partner the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) say the 54-year-old north-side stands and the arena are functionally obsolete. Although the bulk of the funding for the initial stadium refurbishment was for the new southside stands, substantial investments were made in the arena and north-side stands, including the investment of $23 million for repairs to the arena’s roof.

The guiding principles for the second round of revitalization include a declaration that “City funds will not be used to subsidize any of OSEG’s operations, including the professional sports teams, retail, or residential, and including any impacts of construction on those operations.” However, Mayor Watson has conceded that “more public funds could be spent on city-owned facilities.” Currently, OSEG has full use of the stadium and the arena and maintains them but pays only a dollar a year for their use.

One proposed source of funds for a new arena and north-side stands is the sale of the air rights over the stadium. Indeed, the city is proposing to “add to the intensity of the development to keep the site active at all times…” Included in any new residential development on the site would be affordable housing. No information was provided on how high a new residential development might rise above the stadium or on how many new units are contemplated.

“There are significant concerns about the future of Lansdowne,” Councillor Shawn Menard commented to The Mainstreeter. “We need to fix many current issues and ensure that we have a plan that will help enliven the park for decades to come. It is important that the City devises a plan that will further enhance the public realm while also demonstrating responsible financial planning. Most of all, the City and council need to ensure that robust and respectful public consultations are done. It is important that we hear from the residents and communities that will be impacted by, and benefit from, a revitalization of Lansdowne Park. Our office will continue to treat Lansdowne issues as a priority.”

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