Lansdowne plans move forward

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City committee approves new finances, timeline

GLEBE - Glebe merchants are threatening to launch an appeal and another man has filed a second court challenge against the Lansdowne redevelopment plan, but that didn't stop city councillors from endorsing a new financial plan and timeline for the project.

The city's finance and economic development committee gave the thumb's up to the updated plan on Aug. 18, after city manager Kent Kirkpatrick said the project is "stronger now than it was" in June of 2010, when city council first approved the redevelopment plan, which is a partnership with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG).

But that came after a few barbs leveled at councillors by Paul Webber, a lawyer representing the Glebe Business Improvement Area (BIA).

The city broke its promise to block fashion retail stores from moving into Lansdowne, Webber charged, and Glebe businesses will fight the city if it tries to allow those types of stores on the site.

The BIA withdrew from the Ontario Municipal Board appeal with the understanding that the city promised not to allow certain types of stores at Lansdowne, but Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli, a lawyer, said he could find nothing in the language of the agreements and letters between the city and the BIA that would restrict certain types of stores.

Egli said the documents "define the major themes" for the types of stores that will take up residence at Lansdowne, but it doesn't explicitly exclude fashion or apparel stores.

"I think that's reading into the language something that's not necessarily there," Egli said.

Egli asked city staff to look into the issue and report back, but those discussions hadn't happened at press time.

Several other delegates spoke to the committee before it approved the updated plan, which calls for Frank Clair Stadium to be finished renovations in 2014 and the final touches on the urban park won't happen until 2015.

Bob Brocklebank, who took a run for the Capital Ward seat on city council in the last election and works with the Friends of Lansdowne, called on the city to be more open and transparent about the process.

He wanted assurance that city council will have the final sign-off on the updated agreement with OSEG after city staff negotiate the final details. Kirkpatrick confirmed that would be the case.

One resident, Maggie Asher, delivered an impassioned speech decrying city council's decision to "give my park over to developers."

"You are allowing the destruction of our city," she said.

Noted food writer Gay Cook also spoke to the committee and expressed her desire to see food sold at the Aberdeen Pavilion. She said a plan to put a Whole Foods grocery store at Lansdowne could negatively impact that dream, as well as small vendors at the Ottawa Farmer's Market.

The committee also approved a new spending plan for the project, which sees the city investing more up front, but paying the same amount originally anticipated for the overall project.

Originally, the plans for the stadium were to be passed along to OSEG for completion. But the process could be sped up if the city does a lot of the work itself, according to the report.

The city will shoulder much of the burden, with Phase 2 costs jumping from $6.5 million to $21 million. OSEG was also set to spend $6.5 million during that time, but will now chip in id="mce_marker"0.9 million.

Changing the timeline also means that some of the work, including preparations for moving the Horticulture Building and addressing contaminated soil around that building, will get underway sooner.

At another point in the debate, the committee discussed the lease and sale of "air rights" over the new buildings at Lansdowne.

Bay Ward resident Lewis Auerback asked the city to consider other options for the air rights, such as the inclusion of social housing at Lansdowne.

"It would be tragic if we simply maximized simply the dollar value of the air rights when there are so many other currencies that are being ignored," he said.

Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans questioned how the city would decide whether to lease or sell the air rights, reminding committee members that council had indicated it supports leasing over selling. Kirkpatrick responded that it is a "policy discussion council will have to have."

City council approved the finance and economic development committee's recommendation at its Aug. 25 meeting. Watch Ottawa This Week - Central and for the update.