Lansdowne Park has limits as city works on facility occupancy rate

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The city isn't convinced spending about $1 million to install air conditioning in the revamped Horticulture Building at Lansdowne Park would be a good investment. JANA CHYTILOVA / OTTAWA CITIZEN

 

Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

A non-competition agreement with the EY Centre prevents the city from pursuing trade shows for Lansdowne Park, whose city-run buildings had just over half of the rental times booked in 2015.

It’s one of the barriers to maximizing rental space in the Horticulture Building and the Aberdeen Pavilion.

The deal to keep trade shows away from Lansdowne was struck when the city partnered with Shenkman Corp. to build the exposition hall near the Ottawa International Airport. The city contributed $8.5 million to the facility, which the city believed was necessary to bring trade shows to Ottawa when Lansdowne was redeveloped.

EY Centre president Kevin McCrann said the facility hasn’t had to enforce the non-competition agreement with the city over trade shows.

“The majority of the time there is no issue,” McCrann said, adding that the new Lansdowne isn’t exactly conducive to trade shows.

A spokesman for the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group said TD Place isn’t in the trade show business, anyway. (The city runs the Aberdeen Pavilion and Horticulture Building. OSEG runs TD Place.) The trade show space in the “salons” of the old Civic Centre became commercial space in the TD Place redevelopment.

RedBlacks to build forest at Trim park-and-ride

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The Ottawa Redblacks announced on July 5 that every touchdown the team scores will be converted to trees at Trim Park and Ride. The partnership with the city aims to create a Redblacks forest. Michelle Nash Baker/METROLAND

By Michelle Nash Baker, Metro Community News

This football season touchdowns are going to be a little greener in Ottawa.

Since the Ottawa RedBlacks hit the field in 2014, the Canadian Football League team has cut down a tree and cut individual log slices — called cookies — every time the team scores a touchdown, and gives them to community members as souvenirs.

Now in an effort to go full circle, the team announced on July 5 it would also plant a tree for every touchdown.

"This initiative adds a new dimension to our touchdown story and extends it to the entire community,” said Bernie Ashe, chief executive officer of Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, the company that owns the team.

Ashe said the cookies are symbols of excellence to community heroes.

"Now we’re creating a forest of trees for the future,” he said.

Last year the team scored 35 touchdowns. Ashe said he didn’t think it was unreasonable to be able to plant 35 to 40 trees after this season.

City environment committee chairman and Capital Coun. David Chernushenko said the initiative is a fun idea.

“Climate change and deforestation is serious but that doesn’t mean we always have to be serious about helping it,” Chernushenko said.

The RedBlacks have partnered with the city to create its RedBlacks Forest at the Trim Road park-and-ride in Orleans. The location was picked by the city as a thank you to all the Orleans football fans who take transit for the CFL games.

Each tree will cost around $100 Ashe said, which OSEG will cover. Ashe said he thinks it’s an area that could stand to gain a few trees.

“We think this is a really cool way to give back,” Ashe said. “I’m looking forward to growing a forest in my community.”

Chernushenko agreed.

“The symbolism is fabulous and I’m looking forward to expanding the initiative beyond Trim,” Chernushenko said.

The trees will vary in species and will be planted in the fall of 2016 or the spring of 2017, as weather permits.

Lansdowne Park posts another loss despite rising revenues

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Expect 'normalized operations' by 2017-18, CEO tells city finance committee

By Hillary Johnstone, CBC News

Nearly all of the retail and residential space at Lansdowne is now occupied, according to Roger Greenberg, executive chair of OSEG and Minto.
Lansdowne Park posted a loss of $985,000 in 2015, a significant improvement from its $11-million operating deficit in 2014, the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group reported to Ottawa's finance and economic development committee Tuesday.

OSEG CEO Bernie Ashe told the committee Lansdowne is still in "startup mode," and has not yet realized "the full potential of the site" in terms of the number of events it hosts and leasing revenue from retailers.

Despite the loss, revenues are rising, according to OSEG; Lansdowne pulled in more than $40 million in 2015, compared to less than $25 million in 2014.

The group pegged its short-term revenue projections for Lansdowne at $50 million per year.

"We're not where we want to be yet. There are still improvements that we can undertake," Roger Greenberg, executive chair of OSEG, told CBC News.

"But certainly the direction from 2014 to 2015, and into 2016, is very positive."

Majority of retail, residential space now leased or sold

Greenberg, who is also executive chair of Minto, said 97 per cent of the retail space at Lansdowne has been leased, while only half a dozen of the approximately 155 condo units at Minto's The Rideau tower remain unsold.

OSEG CEO Bernie Ashe said he expects Lansdowne Park to achieve 'normalized operations' by 2017-18. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

According to the report presented to the committee Tuesday, both the Vibe condo building at the northwest corner of the site and the 48 townhomes along Holmwood Avenue are fully occupied.

Minto also owns five floors of office space at Lansdowne, but only two of them have been leased, according to Greenberg.  

Ashe said he expects Lansdowne to achieve "normalized operations" by 2017-2018, which will then lead to "operating profitability at OSEG, and on the entire site."

At Tuesday's committee meeting, several city councillors and Mayor Watson told OSEG how pleased they are with Lansdowne's progress.  

"There were a lot of doom and gloom critics that thought … the sky was going to fall down when we went ahead with Lansdowne," said Watson.

"But it's actually turned out to be a good deal financially. It's a good deal to bring life back to that site, because it was a pretty decrepit site for decades."

More jet power coming for Lansdowne Park water plaza

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The city wants to turn up the jets at the water plaza in Lansdowne Park. JULIE OLIVER / OTTAWA CITIZEN 

Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

Lansdowne Park’s water play area is getting more jet power.

Parks and recreation head Dan Chenier said Tuesday the city will increase the power of the jets at the water plaza, which features streams of water lightly jumping out of the ground next to a beacon.

Chenier said the city also wants to add “toys” to the water plaza for kids to play with.

Work is expected in August.

The city has been trying to keep the playing to the part of the water plaza with the jets, since the beacon is really a piece of art called Uplift made of granite and brushed stainless steel. Keeping kids off the artwork has been futile since it’s attractive as a play structure.

Council’s finance and economic development committee received an update on the operations at Lansdowne and the city’s partnership with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group.

A common challenge for the city and OSEG is mitigating the sounds that come from Lansdowne activities and the various speaker systems.

The sounds of Lansdowne is a delicate issue. Music is bleeding between restaurants. Concerts are bugging some Glebe residents. Receptions in the Horticulture Building are keeping neighbours up at night.

Capital Coun. David Chernushenko defended neighbours who complain about the noise.

“We do like fun, just not until 2 a.m. every morning,” Chernushenko said.

Chenier said the city is still learning about how the sound travels from Lansdowne. There is a review ongoing and the city is assessing mitigation techniques, he said.

OSEG CEO Bernie Ashe said Lansdowne is still in “start-up” mode, even with most of the condo units and retail spaces filled up. The company is still trying to lease offices.

“Normalized operations” at Lansdowne will happen in 2017-2018, Ashe said.

The new air conditioning system is now at full capacity in TD Place arena. On June 18 fans sweltered watching UFC matches because only 60 per cent of the air conditioning had been installed.

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City stands to make $32 million from Lansdowne Park deal

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Matthew Pearson, Ottawa Citizen

Months after it appeared extra costs at Lansdowne Park had wiped out the possibility of the city turning a profit on the project, a report released Tuesday shows Ottawa now stands to earn more than $30 million.

The Lansdowne Partnership Plan annual report outlines the park’s financial performance for 2015, a year that saw the Ottawa Redblacks make it to the Grey Cup and an influx of new restaurants and retailers open.

Revenue in 2015 increased 72 per cent over 2014 to $43 million, including an increase of $4.7 million from TD Place and $11.5 million from retail.

Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) still reported a deficit of about $985,000 last year, but it was much smaller than the $11 million operating loss in 2014.

The long-term outlook has also improved since the last update.

Total payments over the 30-year partnership are now estimated to be $457 million, compared to last year’s estimate of $424 million.

The city is now set to receive $32 million, compared to last year’s estimate of zero.

OSEG says the reason for this increase is the agreement city council made last fall to guarantee $24 million to OSEG to settle an outstanding dispute over costs to fix the stadium and Ottawa Civic Centre.

The report says 2.5 million people visited Lansdowne in 2015. The equivalent of 1,000 full-time jobs have been created at the park, including 375 with OSEG.

The retail district is now 97 per cent leased and all major tenants are in place. Active marketing efforts are underway to lease the remaining three floors of the office tower, OSEG says.

The finance committee will discuss the report at its July 5 meeting.

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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.

Lansdowne's urban park overshot budget by 23%

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Rush to make site safe by opening day led to extra costs, city says

The city was responsible for creating the seven-hectare urban park at Lansdowne during redevelopment, which included work on the Aberdeen Pavilion and creating the surrounding courtyards and public areas. (Kate Porter/CBC)

By Kate Porter, CBC News

The City of Ottawa overshot the authorized spending target for the urban park portion of the Lansdowne redevelopment by 10 per cent, or 23 per cent more than the budget originally allocated for the city-built portion of the project.

While Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group led the redevelopment of the stadium and retail areas, the city was fully responsible for the seven-hectare urban park.

The city's original budget for renovating and relocating the Horticulture Building, renovating the Aberdeen Pavilion, and creating the playground, skate park, great lawn and public squares was $37.5 million.

With contingencies accounted for, staff had $42.5 million to work with.

But at a meeting of the city's finance and economic development committee Tuesday, Marco Manconi, the city manager responsible for Lansdowne's design and construction, said staff used up that contingency funding and needed an extra $3.7 million, taking total costs for the urban cost to $46.2 million.

So in total, costs increased by 23 per cent over the original budget for the urban park.

Festival transit bill part of Lansdowne deal, says OC Transpo

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Ottawa Asian Fest organizers are scrambling to cover up to $18,000 in transit costs, but OC Transpo says it's always been that way.

Emma Jackson, Metro

Asian Fest organizers knew from the start they’d have to pay for extra transit, OC Transpo officials said Tuesday.

Simon Huang, program co-ordinator for the Ottawa Asian Fest at Lansdowne Park, said Monday that organizers were surprised two weeks ago by “an unbearable cost” for extra buses to its event June 17-19.

The "ballpark figure" is $18,000 – nearly a third of the festival's $65,000 budget. The board of directors will eat the cost, Huang said.

But OC Transpo’s Pat Scrimgeour said that was the deal all along: since Lansdowne opened, any event that attracts more than 5,000 people has to cover any extra transit OC Transpo provides.

"We’re just applying the same rules," Scrimgeour said.

For concerts and sporting events, transit is built right into the tickets, and holders get free rides to and from the park.

But Asian Fest is free.

"It kind of seems like OC Transpo is double charging," Huang said.

Scrimgeour said it’s up to organizers “to decide how they cover the costs of all aspects of their event.”

Outside of Lansdowne, major festivals don’t seem particularly worried about an unexpected bill.

Holly Tarrison, executive director for HOPE Volleyball Summerfest at Mooney’s Bay, said her group charters private shuttles.

“We don’t see there’s an increase in OC Transpo service for us,” she said.

Same goes for the Lebanese Festival, said spokesperson Ray Skaff.

And Greek Fest organizer Eleni Dellis said she hasn’t heard from the transit operator.

OC Transpo tried this year to recoup costs from the Canadian Tire Centre and Bluesfest, but of the $532,000 they wanted, only $100,000 was secured.

Transit fee part of holding events at Lansdowne, councillors say

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Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

Festival organizers will simply need to get used to paying a transit fee if they want to use the municipality's premier park.

"It's the cost of doing an event at Lansdowne Park," transit commission chair Stephen Blais said Wednesday.

"They have to pay for all the services they consume. This is to ensure the festival doesn't have a negative impact to things going on around it."

Asian Fest raised concerns this week because OC Transpo wants to charge up to $18,000 in extra transit services provided for the three-day event at Lansdowne this month. There is no admission price for visitors, so the festival would need to absorb the cost somehow.

Transpo is trying harder to recoup money it spends on providing enhanced bus service during special events.

Booking space at Lansdowne comes with a rule compelling organizers to pay a transit fee if there will be more than 5,000 people attending an event.

Transportation planning at Lansdowne has focused heavily on trying to convince people to leave their cars at home and consider other modes, such as public transit. Transpo wants to make sure it has the bus capacity for people choosing transit.

Capital Coun. David Chernushenko, whose ward includes Lansdowne, said festivals should be building the transit expense into their budgets.

"It's the cost of doing business anywhere, not just at Lansdowne," Chernushenko said.