Lansdowne's urban park costs $3.7M extra

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The city initially budgeted $42.5 million for Lansdowne's urban park. But issues with the Horticulture Building had staff scrambling – and spending – to finish.

Lucy Scholey, Metro

The City of Ottawa spent $3.73 million more on Lansdowne’s urban park last year than initially budgeted, but did not accumulate more debt, according to the city’s treasurer.

In the original plan, the city set aside $42.5 million to renovate and move the Horticulture Building, repair the Aberdeen Pavilion, install the berm, build a skate park, put down the sod for the great lawn and create public spaces.

That amount included some contingency funds, but not enough, said city treasurer Marian Simulik.

The August 2014 opening date and impending soccer matches had city officials scrambling to finish up construction on time. There were also “unforeseen building condition issues” that needed smoothing over in order to comply with the Ontario Building Code standards, according to a city staff report on capital project adjustments. This all resulted in the $3.73-million cost overrun.

“I fully support the fact that they wanted to speed up and they wanted to make the site safe for people to use it,” said Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, following a finance and economic development committee on Tuesday.

The city used a citywide cash-in-lieu of parklands fund and development charges to cover the cost overrun.

As mentioned in the report, the city is also sending $10.4 million back into its reserves – including transit, library, solid waste, social housing and cash-in-lieu ­– as a result of surplus funds from other capital projects.

At the finance and economic development committee, Southgate-Gloucester Coun. Diane Deans questioned whether the $3.7 million additional funds should have gone through the finance committee and council channels first.

But Simulik said staff have delegated authority to carry out such work for parks, especially if the project runs into unforeseen circumstances.

“Staff will just go ahead and do that work and spend that money knowing that they can come back and we’ll adjust, we’ll find money to cover that,” she said, noting that projects with surplus funds can help balance out those with deficits.

“We don’t want work being delayed because there is minor amounts of money not there. We are a large enough corporation that we can actually find the funds to address those little issues. I don’t want work hung up because FEDCO only meets once a month.”

Of Lansdowne Park’s roughly $400 million redevelopment price tag, the city is responsible for $167.4 million.