An Ottawa committee has given its blessing to the latest proposed redesign of Lansdowne Park, clearing the way for City Council to approve it in principle and launch public consultations.

At the end of a more than eight-hour meeting on Friday, the city’s finance and economic development committee voted in favor of a staff report on the plan, which was released by Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group ( OSEG) last week and was dubbed “Lansdowne 2.0.”

The proposal proposes several major changes to the Glebe Urban Park, which has struggled to attract visitors, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first phase would see the Civic Center arena, home of the Ottawa 67’s and OSEG-owned Ottawa BlackJacks, moved from its current location under the bleachers at TD Place on the north side. It would be reduced to 5,500 seats, in part to attract medium-sized cultural events that currently bypass the nation’s capital.

Once complete, the stands on the north side would be completely replaced, with the new stands able to accommodate approximately 3,000 fewer fans.

All of that would be dominated by 1,200 new residential units, including both rental apartments and condos. Preliminary drawings show three high-rise buildings towering over the center of Lansdowne, and OSEG has promised 10% of the units will be affordable.

The whole project will cost about $330 million, but OSEG and city staff say it will be amortized through an elaborate financing structure and ultimately revenue-neutral.

Ottawa Redblacks fans walked through Lansdowne Park last August ahead of the club’s first CFL home game following the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has drastically reduced the number of people visiting the Glebe Urban Park. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC)

Deadlines questioned

Friday’s vote allows council to, among other things, approve spending of $8 million for next steps — which include initiating the rezoning process, seeking bids for the towers’ air rights, completing studies on traffic and heritage and the launch of wider consultations.

Some residents who live nearby, however, said the ambitious renovation was moving too quickly, with Capital ward Coun. Shawn Menard – who represents the region – held a public meeting last Tuesday to hear comments.

About three dozen delegates registered to speak Friday, including Glebe residents and business owners, tourism officials, a former city police chief and even CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie. .

Several told the committee that while they supported elements of the OSEG plan, the time between its unveiling and Friday’s vote was too short – and that community consultations should take place first.

With the final decision on Lansdowne 2.0 resting with the next city council, the fear is that even approving a plan will cripple them in principle if they want changes down the road, said Alex Cullen, former councilor and chairman of the Federation of Citizens’ Associations. from Ottawa.

“The adoption of today’s decisions is part of that,” Cullen said. “It’s the fear of our members, and it’s not good public policy.”

“The animosity that exists towards this site is already too great,” said Anthony Carricato, chairman of the Glebe Community Association’s Lansdowne Park committee, referring to the hard feelings that plagued the site’s initial redevelopment a decade ago. .

“And it doesn’t help that we have nine days to consider such a massive change to a citywide asset.”

Carolyn Mackenzie, the community association’s planning chair, suggested nine days wasn’t enough to digest the complexities of financing – which involves taking on debt up front and paying it off in part thanks property taxes generated by residential units and new retail businesses.

“Let’s have a solid discussion,” she said. “There’s a lot to like here. I believe there’s a lot not to like here as well.”

Ménard tried to introduce a motion to slow down the process, but no one on the committee wanted to table it. He said he would present it to the full council at the end of the month.

Mohna Chaturvedi, left, and Pranav Pandey, right, embrace as they take a selfie at Lansdowne Park on Christmas Day 2021. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

“We expect the proposal to change”

Others, particularly those speaking from a business and tourism perspective, told the committee they support the revitalization plan and its existing timelines.

“We need more residents on site to make this happen, especially on weekdays. Our weekends are very busy,” said Dean Stresman, who runs the Sunset Grill franchise at Lansdowne.

“I had hoped that we would have more events [but] our backstage facilities for artists are outdated and insufficient. So some tours and some artists will pass us by.”

I’m convinced that [OSEG has] a very good understanding of what the fans want.– CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie

Patrick Burke, executive director of the Glebe Business Improvement Area, said while local business owners have a variety of ideas about the details, the belief in the need for revitalization is “almost universal”. .

As for Ambrosie, he told the committee that he regularly sees Ottawa Redblacks games as a model Canadian football experience – but the bleachers on the north side of TD Place are “dull” and “not conforming to modern CFL standards.

“I’m convinced that [OSEG has] a very good understanding of what the fans want and are looking for,” he said.

During several hours of follow-up questions from councillors, Steve Willis, the city’s general manager of planning, real estate and economic development, repeatedly maintained that other than the $8 million expenditure, nothing in Friday’s report is set in stone.

Willis said the money will help staff gather information on some of the concerns raised by residents and then present them with actionable responses.

“We felt it was important not to speak in generalities. We had to give [residents] something to chew on,” Willis said. “We expect the proposal to change. And the next board will make a series of decisions that will shape that.”

If the timelines outlined in Friday’s staff report are met, construction of the first phase, the new freestanding events center, could begin by summer 2023.