Consultations Conclude on Lansdowne 2.0

In 2021, during the race for mayor, third-place candidate and former mayor Bob Chiarelli announced his intention to run for his old job. During an interview on CFRA, he addressed the Lansdowne 2.0 project and proclaimed it a disaster.

At the time, the City of Ottawa was (and still is) dealing with the fallout of LRT derailments and breakdowns. Public transit was in a state of near paralysis, especially for anyone who had to travel from one end of the city, through the core, to the other end. Chiarelli’s concern wasn’t taken very seriously. The results from the 2022 election indicated as much; the LRT, community safety, taxes, and housing were more significant issues.

However, the LRT and Lansdowne Park have a lot in common. The original renovations to Lansdowne that started in 2007 and Lansdowne 2.0 are P3 contracts: public and private sector partnerships. Despite former Mayor Jim Watson touting the completion of phase one of Lansdowne in 2014 as a success, the project lacked oversight, and an auditor’s report found that the private company failed to implement 11 of the 17 recommendations. P3 contracts have also been tainted by the disastrous handling of maintenance by RTM, the conglomerate of companies that manage the maintenance of the LRT.

This week, dozens of delegates spoke daily during the two days of consultations. The City of Ottawa’s review of Lansdowne 2.0 is expected to go into next week. The meetings are a joint gathering of the Finance and Corporate Services Committee and the Planning and Housing Committee. So far in his term in office, the mayoral style of Mark Sutcliffe has been to delegate motions to committees for debate. This method has kept Council meetings relatively short as motions come to Council to be effectively rubber-stamped.

During the consultations, citizens of every stripe came out to voice, even sing, their concerns over the expansion of one of Ottawa’s most prominent sports and entertainment districts. With the consultations, there were a few recurring themes.

There are currently two proposed residential towers that will add 770 units to Lansdowne. Councillor Tim Tierney wants the initially planned third tower to be readded to the design, bringing Lansdowne’s new unit count to 1200. The area is already short on parking and relies on shuttles to off-site overflow parking for major sporting events. The existing underground parking is generally sufficient for a mid-week night out, but it can still be challenging. A parking solution is a primary concern.

Before you park, you have to be able to get to the site. Lansdowne is accessible by the NCC-controlled Queen Elizabeth Drive and Bank Street. Neither are optimal places for high traffic. Bank Street requires an Ottawa Police presence to direct traffic on game days. Residents of Glebe who already struggle to return home at the end of the workday may experience further delays, as will Lansdowne 2.0 residents.

Also, because the project is a P3 contract, there is plenty of scepticism. Councillor Shawn Menard, whose ward is home to the project, has gone as far as to propose a motion that would allow the city to essentially terminate the P3 contract and put the park into the trust of a non-profit agency if things go off the rails, as they did both literally and figuratively with the LRT.

Additionally, affordable housing has become an issue for the proposed development. Councillors of the Progressive Bend, including Ariel Troster and Shawn Menard, have stressed the importance of affordable housing units. This will no doubt continue to attract controversy as other affordable housing sites within the city continue to struggle with social issues that come with the territory, including mental health and addiction problems. Conversely, the additional units would be a welcome relief to renters who could see a city-wide drop in prices when units become available.

Today’s consultations, however, focused the most on sporting infrastructure. Citizens are clearly not happy with the state of the stadium. Although Shawn Menard has defended the state of the football field, the North Stand at Lansdown were criticized.

One delegate said that if he wanted to catch an event with a friend with a disability, it would be better to watch the sporting event at home on TV since the North side of the field is not particularly accessible. Another delegate noted that although Shawn Menard has quoted the value of the field and its proposed lifespan (another 60 years or so), the field will not last this long as the infrastructure is already showing signs of decline because it is exposed to Ottawa’s winter weather. The same delegate also noted that portapotties have become a permanent feature in the field despite only being a temporary solution to insufficient washrooms.

Consultations concluded late today, but the joint committee will continue meeting next week. A litany of motions must be voted on, so the city can lay the framework for developing Lansdowne 2.0. The Sutcliffe administration, whether it knows it or not, is entering one of the most significant chapters in its mandate. Hopefully, the process does not divide Council into pro- and no-Lansdowne.