Phil Jenkins, Ottawa Citizen
It was as much by accident as design that I found myself wandering Lansdowne Park on a sunny, midweek midday. In search of a buzz tea from Ecuador, I entered the mall section, noting the numbing uniformity of design in the buildings and their frontage, and paused. What had been to my left before? The Coliseum building and a small park. The Coliseum, built 1903, demolished 109 years later. The park, Sylvia Holden (a community activist, born 1930) Commemorative, opened 1994 by a Councillor Watson, bulldozed 18 years later.
Halfway up the escalator to the grocery store I read the business’s mission statement on the wall ahead of me, gagged, came down again and walked out into daylight and made for the Cattle Castle, which was looking majestic and friendly. The stores in the retail corridor appeared fairly upmarket to my bank account, and a brave restaurant had set up a patio where several people were podded into music to drown the din of construction nearby. Between the buildings short, wide alleyways led to Holmwood Avenue. Scurrying out to the street I looked left and right. Diversely styled and aged homes on the north side; a still under-construction phalanx of cloned town houses on the north. The clone homes have the better view; the older homes all have the same view.
At the end of the corridor, which I believe will eventually be tree-lined, the side of the relocated Horticulture building was all glass and empty inside awaiting tenants. The facade has been beautifully restored to the way it looked when it was built to Francis Sullivan’s design in 1914, in the Prairie style of Frank Lloyd Wright. I realize now as I write this that there are Prairie elements in the retail buildings on the corridors. A plaque outside the Castle reminded me that the Princess Patricia’s regiment started here in 1914. Fitting now that it will be a peaceful farmer’s market.
Turning to my right, a small, cute bridge caught my eye. It runs from the east end of the north stands over to a grassy knoll behind the east end goal posts. Standing halfway along the bridge, the stadium looked splendid and sunny, apart from the southwest corner of the field, which was in the shadow of the far-too-large, daylight-eating condo tower at the foot of the beautiful Bank Street Bridge. The south stands, from this side, looked fresh and a fine spot from which to watch a Fury’s soccer game. (The canal side of the stands is creatively clothed in wood ribs, a pleasing effect completely marred by a bank ad smack in the middle.)
The actual parkland at the back alongside the canal is in three parts at the moment. A scruffy grass expanse beside the stadium; a construction site for what I surmise will be a wading pool, or perhaps a fountain; and a skateboarders installation next to some hoops, where a fitness centre sales swat team were taking a break. I’m anxious to see how this ends up, and my nickel’s worth would be to call this section the real Lansdowne Park, next to the Lansdowne Mall. And you can enter it on foot from the canal side without having to go through the retail section.
When I returned to Bank Street down a second corridor, I noticed that a bank there advertised underground parking and was open seven days a week. My idea of hell. The banners on the lamp posts on Bank Street alternately mention the bank and say “The Glebe.” This is not the Glebe; the Glebe now ends on the north side of Holmwood. On the plus side, there are already benches everywhere, which is great. They were operating mostly as texting stages. And I realize that, although the Park was declared open by the mayor a few months ago, it’s really only half open. I’ll repeat this walk next spring, and we’ll see where it’s at. Until then, don’t look for me down there; I’ll be up the street.
Phil Jenkins is an Ottawa writer.