Revised Lansdowne plans scheduled for release

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Presentation at City Hall to include updated drawings for site

By David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen

New drawings showing updated plans for Lansdowne Park were scheduled to be released at 9: 30 a.m.

The presentation, in the city council chamber at City Hall, was to include the architects and designers working on each of the project's major features: Robert Claiborne on the renovations to Frank Clair Stadium; Jeffrey Staats on the new urban park to replace the parking lots on the southern and eastern parts of the site; Julian Smith on moving the Horticulture Building; and John Clifford on the "mixed-use area," the commercial and residential buildings to be erected on the northern third of the property.

"The 90-minute presentation will cover the details, sightlines, building materials, architecture and landscape plans for Lansdowne Park," said a memo from city manager Kent Kirkpatrick to city councillors. It represents the designers' "completed work," he wrote.

On Monday afternoon, the council chamber was guarded by city hall security guards, who stood in front of the drapes used to obscure the view inside for city council meetings in closed session to consider labour, legal or personnel matters. By evening, the room was open again and as empty as it usually is when it's not in use, suggesting a technical rehearsal had been conducted.

Capital Councillor David Chernushenko said Friday that the public session would be within the next two weeks, sometime before a meeting of city council's finance committee on Feb. 16. That's the same meeting at which the future of the city-owned baseball stadium on Coventry Road is on the agenda, and it was postponed, according to Mayor Jim Watson, because multiple items due for consideration wouldn't be ready. He said at the time that he couldn't remember what the other matters were.

Kirkpatrick's memo said the Lansdowne Park plans would be included in a set of reports to the committee that would update councillors on the work done on the redevelopment since city council last voted to continue with it at the end of the summer. If the committee reaffirms the city's intent to carry on, council will take another vote Feb. 22, the memo said.

Roger Greenberg, the lead partner in the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group working with the city on the Lansdowne redevelopment, declined an interview Monday on the grounds that "it wouldn't be fair" to talk about the plans before councillors had a chance to see them.

In an interview Friday, Chernushenko said the plans had changed quite a bit since the last public showing: The renovated Frank Clair Stadium is much the same, but the commercial buildings planned for the northern part of the Glebe property have been refined, reduced in height and kept in line with the city's goal of having the area fit into the Glebe's pattern of small and medium-sized stores rather than being a venue for bigbox retailers.

"I'm fairly satisfied," he said, within the constraints he had to work with as a member of the city's design-review panel for the project, which had met with OSEG people more than a dozen times to make sure the Lansdowne plans followed the city's wishes. Chernushenko thinks it's a mistake to keep Frank Clair Stadium in place for a new Canadian Football League team, and he's opposed to the commercialization of public property and he remains worried about traffic, he said, but, given all that, the results aren't bad.

The city is carrying on despite two ongoing court challenges.

The judges of the Ontario Court of Appeal are still working on a ruling in what's considered the major case, brought by the Friends of Lansdowne community group, who allege the city's deal with OSEG constitutes an illegal business subsidy, was reached in bad faith and violated the city's procurement rules.

The city won comprehensively in the first trial; the appeal arguments were heard in the fall, and no date has been set for a ruling. The timetable for the redevelopment plan allows for a long wait, though no time has been worked in for a possible appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The second case, brought by the Lansdowne Park Conservancy, alleges other violations of the city's procurement bylaw because the deal with OSEG wasn't subject to competition, a decision the city's lawyers signed off on, but one that the conservancy says was illegitimate.

Co-ordinator John Martin released a statement on the weekend saying he and the city had asked for a quick hearing before the divisional court in Toronto; the city contends that Martin is asking for a re-examination of the same basic issues brought by the Friends of Lansdowne and wants his case dismissed as an "abuse of process."

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