Lansdowne Live & Lansdowne Partnership Plan

In March 2008, the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), which includes: Jeff Hunt, owner of the Ottawa 67’s; developer Minto Group’s chairman, Roger Greenberg; expatriate property developer billionaire Bill Shenkman; and John Ruddy, president of shopping centre developer, Trinity Development Group, were awarded a conditional Canadian Football League (CFL) expansion franchise contingent on securing a suitable stadium and needed Frank Clair Stadium to be renovated. In the fall of 2007, the OSEG group had announced that it would seek the CFL franchise, and intended to play in an upgraded Frank Clair Stadium, with private boxes and other amenities. The stadium plan sketched out the use of a residential and commercial component to pay for the upgrades.

Supporters of the design consultation process, notably Glebe Community Association president Bob Brocklebank, were concerned that this would overturn the work done so far on developing a plan for the park, urged the city to continue with the consultation process. However, in May 2008, the City decided to suspend the design consultation to determine the OSEG’s needs for the facility.  The suspension upset the Glebe Association and Capital Ward councillor Clive Doucet, and prompted Mayor O’Brien to muse whether a “whether or not the city wants or needs a sports stadium on the prime real estate site at all.” Results of a survey of Ottawans showed strong support for a public redevelopment of the Park not tied to a professional sports franchise, although a majority of respondents were in favour of retention of the stadium.

The determination process became more complicated when, in September 2008, the Ottawa Senators organization (Senators Sports & Entertainment (SSE)) approached the city about building a soccer-specific stadium on city-owned land in Kanata, near Scotiabank Place.The land, being used as a snow dump, would house a 20,000 seat stadium, with 30,000 for concerts, and utilize the parking spaces of Scotiabank Place. The stadium was to house a Major League Soccer professional franchise which the Senators group was bidding for.

On October 17, 2008, the OSEG group publicly announced their Lansdowne Live! plan to revitalize Lansdowne Park by redeveloping the entire site in a public-private partnership with the City. The Lansdowne Live proposal envisioned rebuilding Frank Clair Stadium to support not only Canadian Football, but also professional soccer. The remaining south side stands would be torn down and new stands built, while the north side stands would be renovated. Early versions of the plan included practice baseball fields, soccer pitches, a Koi pond, a walk through aquarium in Aberdeen Pavilion and an outdoor amphitheatre. The plan eventually focused on enhancing the park portion of the site renovating the Civic Centre and adding a commercial element that would help fund the stadium renovations. Exhibition space would be moved off the site to a new facility. Whether the Farmer’s Market would remain at the site was unclear.

Opponents of the OSEG proposal, notably Clive Doucet, councillor for the surrounding district, were concerned that alternative proposals were not being accepted via a design competition. Doucet attempted to get Council’s support to restart the Design Lansdowne process, but was unsuccessful.Opponents were concerned about a lack of parking, public transportation access and the cost to the City. The OSEG proposal would require the city to spend $129.3 million to renovate the stadium and for its share of the parking. OSEG would commit $117.3 million for the construction of retail and residential condominiums on the site. OSEG would own the new commercial development and operate the stadium, with a portion of the revenues directed back to the city. The new retail and residential would be subject to property taxes.

During the early months of 2009, the City of Ottawa considered both proposals. The staff of the City of Ottawa presented a report to Council on the merits of the Soccer Stadium and Lansdowne proposals. The City held public hearings based on the report, which questioned the necessity of the spending, but gave a slight edge to the Lansdowne proposal. Councillors attempted to find out whether the SSE group would support sharing their stadium with a planned CFL franchise, but the SSE group rejected the possibility. Lansdowne Live proponents made it clear that anMLSteam, or another pro soccer team, such as one in the United Soccer League (USL) could play at Frank Clair Stadium.

On April 22, 2009, City Council voted to go ahead and work with the Lansdowne group instead of the Kanata group. City Council voted to enter into sole source negotiations with the Lansdowne Live group by a vote of 14–9. Council imposed conditions on the negotiations, including preserving the farmer’s market, turning a substantial portion of the site into greenspace and public use areas, no big-box stores and city approval for any buildings.

After public information sessions and two days of hearings at Ottawa City Hall, the Lansdowne Live proposal was approved in principle by Ottawa City Council on November 16, 2009 by a vote of 15-9, with several conditions.Approval was contingent on transportation and retail studies as well as a plan for the relocation of the exhibition facilities. Design of the park portion of the site would be subject to a design competition. A design review board would be created, headed by urban designer George Dark, to oversee the design elements of the site.

In February 2010, the City of Ottawa, the National Capital Commission and Parks Canada made a call for proposals for the urban park design. The proposal received 21 expressions of interest from architectural firms for the development, including several from the United States and one from England. Five of the firms were selected to develop design proposals.

The five plans for the ‘urban park’ were unveiled on May 21, 2010. Plans included several controversial elements such as re-routing some water from the Canal into the site, a proposal that would be in conflict with the Canal’s UN heritage designation. All included extensive greenspace and some included public space around the Aberdeen Pavilion for gatherings. Costs ranged from $32.8 million to $88 million. The jury deliberated until June 8 before choosing the “Win-Place-Show” proposal developed by Vancouver landscape architects Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg. The Win-Place-Show proposal created extensive greenspace and preserved Sylvia Holden Park. The proposal did not include the moving of the Horticulture Building to the east of the Aberdeen Pavilion. It included a modification of the canal frontage and a bridge over the canal that were considered unlikely to be built

On May 27, OSEG revealed an updated design for the OSEG section of the redevelopment. The plan included new south side stands, wrapped in a wooden outer shell. A new translucent roof would be built over the north and south seating. Botanical gardens would connect the back of the south stands with the pathways along the canal. A new facade for the hockey arena would include retail. New town houses would be built along the northern edge of the site on Holmwood Avenue, with pathways and courtyards that connect into the Lansdowne site. Two residential towers would be built on the Bank Street frontage, expected to be 12 to 14 storeys, sitting atop a podium. The plan included an esplanade of terraced trees and gardens running the length of Bank Street, with retail space. The plan plans to move the Horticulture Building to the east of the Aberdeen Pavilion, to house either the farmer’s market or a Parks Canada interpretation centre of the Rideau Canal.

On June 28, 2010, after reviewing several studies on the proposal, City of Ottawa Council voted to proceed with sole source negotiations with OSEG. The next step would be to develop a plan that merged the urban park with the OSEG residential and commercial plans. The urban park plan did not include moving the Horticulture Building, and saved some space for the farmer’s market beside the Aberdeen Pavilion, that the OSEG plan would build as retail. The plan would be ready in the fall of 2010. The Council voted to preserve the sector known as “Lansdowne Community Park”, east of O’Connor and south of Fifth Avenue.

In September 2010, Council voted to rezone the lands of Lansdowne Park for the OSEG redevelopment. The move, approved at committee by the tie-breaking vote of mayor O’Brien, included the lands of Sylvia Holden Park along Bank Street and Holmwood Avenue. The City considers the park to be part of Lansdowne and not a park in its own right. The decommissioning of a park in Ottawa requires a 2/3 Council vote in favour. The park is to be redeveloped with four-storey condominiums along Holmwood and a tower at Bank Street. The Holden park land includes green space along Holmwood and landscaping along Bank Street.

On September 28, the OSEG group announced the addition of the Ottawa Fury to the partnership. The Fury plan to bid for a professional franchise in a future North American Soccer League (NASL). The Fury hope to get the franchise and start play in 2013.

On September 29, the City posted the site control plan for the merged OSEG and urban park plans on the Lansdowne Partnership Plan web site. The plan proposes to move the Horticultural Building east of the Aberdeen Pavilion. The Ottawa Farmer’s Market would be relocated to a ‘Aberdeen Square’ public square north of the Aberdeen Pavilion.

The City held a public meeting on its site control plan on October 14. Later in October, the municipal election was held and Lansdowne Park was one of the issues, both locally in Capital Ward and across the city in the vote for mayor. Opponent Clive Doucet was defeated for mayor, while former Ottawa mayor Jim Watson, who promised to continue the redevelopment process, was elected to become the new Ottawa mayor.

The site plan was approved at Ottawa City Council on November 22, 2010.  Final Council approval is expected in summer 2011. According to Ottawa councillor Jan Harder, the site plan itself is not contestable. There are however 14 cases before the Ontario Municipal Board that will come before the courts in April 2011. According to OSEG principal John Pugh, the stadium is expected to be ready for June 2013.

By April 2011, more objections had accumulated to the plan to be heard at a Ontario Municipal Board hearing on the plan. The city reached a mediated settlement with most of the objectors. The revised plan would remove mid-rise buildings from Holmwood Avenue, reduce the heights of over buildings on the site, provide some park space on Holmwood and add some traffic restrictions. Several objectors were left and the OMB hearing proceeded. On June 15, 2011, the OMB decision was published, in favour of the city.

Revised plans were released on February 7, 2012. The plans would include three times the amount of greenspace originally planned as well 900 trees. The stadium would contain 24 000, which at the time would have been the smallest CFL stadium (although the currently planned Pan American Stadium in Hamilton, if constructed, would have an even smaller capacity; both proposed stadiums are under the CFL’s preferred minimum of 25,000 seats).

 

Disclaimer: OttawaLansdownePark.com has No Affiliation with the City of Ottawa or the OSEG. We are a local blog providing news & sports updates on Lansdowne Park.