Lansdowne review panel wants update

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CBC News

The group appointed to review plans to revitalize Ottawa's Lansdowne Park say they have gone six months without anything significant to review.

In a letter Tuesday to Ottawa city staff, the Lansdowne Review Panel members said they need more details of the Lansdowne plan, and more often.

Councillors David Chernushenko and Peter Hume drafted the letter with the support of the other two panelists.

"We haven't seen anything comprehensive showing us the whole site," said Chernushenko. "We need to see this, we need to understand it. So put it all together and then respond to these questions and invite us in to review it, that's what we'd like to be doing."

The city voted last June to form a public-private partnership with Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group to renovate Lansdowne Park. Under the deal, OSEG will oversee renovations of Frank Clair Stadium, and build a mix of condominium and retail space in the rest of the park.

The $300-million project has been controversial from the outset, however, with plans changing frequently.

In April the proposed renovation dropped plans for a group of mid-rise buildings on Holmwood Avenue as part of a settlement with groups appealing the plan before the Ontario Municipal Board.

And in May, City Hall quietly dropped a proposal to relocate the Ottawa Art Gallery to the space.

City planner John Smit said city staff have been focusing on presenting a full package of the plan to present to the panel.

"I acknowledge that there's a degree of frustration that they've experienced and expressed," said Smit. "We didn't have a lot to deliver to them because there was a lot of effort that needed to be gone through to get all of these pieces together."

Smit said a meeting is being set up to update the review panel, but no date has been set.

Chernushenko said the letter was not meant to be confrontational, but said without updates the panel is unable to make sure the Lansdowne plan meets council's expectations.

"The only announcements we've seen so far is we have a Whole Foods store and an Empire Cinema, both of which look really big. So we need to see that you're conforming with the direction that was given," he said.

Construction on Lansdowne was supposed to begin this summer, but its not clear when work will begin, as the project still has a few hurdles to overcome, including legal challenge by the group Friends of Lansdowne due to start this month.

With files from the CBC's Giacomo Panico