Lansdowne Park revitalization report gets mixed reaction

·3 min read
The city's report on revitalizing Lansdowne Park calls for — among other things — upgrading heritage buildings like the Aberdeen Pavilion. While that recommendation has the support of two community groups, the overall report remains contentious. (Francis Ferland/CBC - image credit)
The city's report on revitalizing Lansdowne Park calls for — among other things — upgrading heritage buildings like the Aberdeen Pavilion. While that recommendation has the support of two community groups, the overall report remains contentious. (Francis Ferland/CBC - image credit)

A City of Ottawa report that calls for a major revitalization of Lansdowne Park is garnering mixed reviews from a pair of nearby community associations.

The staff report, made public Friday, calls for the replacement of the existing arena and the north-side stands at TD Place stadium, both of which are in need of modern upgrades.

"We, as a community, support a stadium and the arena to remain at Lansdowne Park. It's a pivotal asset to the site," said Anthony Carricato, chair of the Glebe Community Association Lansdowne Committee.

"We do have some concerns about this complete rebuild ... and how that will impact the sports teams who compete at Lansdowne Park."

While the report doesn't attach a dollar figure to the recommendations, the work would likely be in the range of tens of millions of dollars.

One way to pay for the project, the report suggests, is adding market-value housing to a new north-side complex that could include a 5,000-seat event centre.

"We would really like to see affordable housing — and deeply affordable housing — included in that mixed development," said Carricato. "And that any proposed development go on existing commercial development or pre-existing development."

Brian Morris/CBC
Brian Morris/CBC

The Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), which manages the commercial area and owns the sports teams that play on the site, posted an $11-million loss for its 2020 fiscal year and then lost more money due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given that taxpayers have already spent $210 million on renovations to the stadium and the city-run urban park, not everyone agrees throwing more money at Lansdowne Park is the best idea.

"The idea of spending a lot more money to subsidize OSEG doesn't go over well with a lot of us," said John Dance, a member of the Old Ottawa East Community Association.

"To try to have events that depend on people, large numbers of people, getting there without LRT, it's a failing proposition," said Dance. "And for them to spend more money on a new stadium — it's just the wrong place."

Heritage work gets approval

Carricato and Dance both agree that suggested work on the park's heritage buildings, including the Aberdeen Pavilion, is important — as does the board of directors for the Ottawa Farmers' Market, one of the site's biggest draws.

"Aberdeen Pavilion is where we have our Christmas office and our winter markets, and we can certainly attest to the fact that it's certainly in need of some renovation work to bring it up to spec," said Andy Lofthouse, chair of the board.

While he's "sympathetic" for the need to modernize parts of Lansdowne Park, Lofthouse said he also had concerns about how renovations could impact the market's weekly business.

The report will go to the finance and economic development committee on July 6 and then to full city council later in the month.

After that, OSEG would have to prepare a formal proposal, which would go through public consultation.

The current plan would see a memorandum of understanding coming back to council in 2022, and if the city and OSEG can agree, a final deal would be brought to council early in their next term.

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