Lansdowne anchor tenant Empire Theatres bails out of cinema industry

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By David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — The owner of the movie theatre being built at Lansdowne Park is getting out of the cinema business, leaving the future of the theatre at the controversial redevelopment site unclear.

Empire Co., which owns Empire Theatres and the Sobeys supermarket chain, is selling its movie houses to focus on the grocery business, the company announced Thursday morning.

The existing theatres are being divided between Cineplex Inc. and Landmark Cinemas. Cineplex is paying $200 million cash for Empire's holdings in Atlantic Canada and Calgary-based Landmark is part of a more complicated buyout of Empire's cinemas in the West. They're splitting Empire's holdings in Ontario, with Cineplex picking up its theatre in Kanata and one in Whitby and Landmark getting the rest, including one in Orléans.

None of the companies' news releases Thursday specifically said anything about Empire's movie theatres at Ottawa's Exchange Centre or what will happen to the one under construction at Lansdowne.

"We haven't yet had conversation with the developer regarding its final state," said Empire spokesman Andrew Walker from Mississauga. Empire has a lease with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, the consortium of developers redeveloping Lansdowne in partnership with the City of Ottawa, to operate a theatre there and Walker said he expects Empire will honour it.

There's supposed to be a cinema at Lansdowne and he expects there will be one, in other words. "It was a commitment that was made and I would expect it to continue in that state," Walker said.

City manager given authority to execute Lansdowne deals

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By Alex Boutilier, Metro

Ottawa's finance committee signed off on expanding the city manager's authority to execute parts of the Lansdowne Park redevelopment project with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group Tuesday.

If approved by council, the move would grant City Manager Kent Kirkpatrick the authority to give the city's consent for requests from OSEG within the parametres of the legal and financial agreements approved by council last year.

Kirkpatrick said the move was necessary, given the tight timelines for the project.

The first project on Kirkpatrick's plate will be the construction of retail and office buildings. Minto, whose CEO sits on OSEG's board, has been recommended for the project.

Lansdowne urban park price tag estimated at $20m-$25m

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By Alex Boutilier, Metro

The City of Ottawa is expecting to pay $20 million to $25 million for an urban park at Lansdowne, according to tender documents.

That estimate includes all components of the park, including two major public art installations, a refrigerated skating rink, a new skateboard park, and a "great lawn" on the park's southeast corner.

Jeff Byrne, the head of the city's supply branch, said the price tag is an estimate only. The contract will be awarded to the lowest responsive bid.

The city announced four companies had prequalified to bid on the multi-million dollar contract last week. The city went the pre-qualification route, Byrne said, due to the size, complexity and timelines associated with the project.

"The Lansdowne redevelopment includes multiple project components, underway concurrently and with extremely tight timelines and therefore this pre-qualification process was deemed appropriate," Byrne wrote in an email.

The successful contractor will have incentives to meet that aggressive timeline. If all work on the northeastern section of the park is completed by May 30, 2014, the contractor gets a $60,000 bonus. If work on the southern section is completed by October 31 later that year, the contractor is eligible for an additional $40,000.

If deadlines are missed the contractor could be slapped with up to $100,000 in "disincentives" fees, depending on how long the delay lasts.

The tender documents are in the hands of the contractors, but will not be made public until June 10. Final completion of the contract is set for May 2015.

Prequalified bidders for the Lansdowne urban park:

  • Carillion Canada Inc. — Concord, Ontario
  • D&G Landscaping — Greely, Ontario
  • Doran Contractors — Ottawa, Ontario
  • Ottawa Greenbelt Construction Co. Ltd. — Ottawa, Ontario

City staff ask for more authority in Lansdowne approvals

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By Alex Boutilier, Metro

Given tight timelines for the construction of Lansdowne Park, Ottawa's city manager is looking for more authority to execute deals with Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group.

The authority, if approved, would give City Manager Kent Kirkpatrick the ability to directly sign off on matters relating to the Lansdowne Partnership Plan.

In a report due before the city's finance and economic development committee Tuesday, staff note the authority would only extend to provisions already contained within the legal agreement between the city and OSEG. Any proposed changes to that agreement would still require committee and council approval.

That same report indicates construction at the Lansdowne Park redevelopment is as scheduled and on budget. The report also recommends Minto Communities construct retail sections under its residential buildings, as well as the office building.

"OSEG notes that it is preferable from cost, engineering, construction and warranty perspectives to have one contractor instead of two different contractors build these portions of the retail base buildings and the residential and office buildings above them," the report states. "Minto would earn a fee for the construction of these retail base buildings but the city has received assurances from Minto that the fee being earned is at or below current market rates for equivalent services."

Minto's CEO, Roger Greenberg, is a partner at OSEG. The city's finance and economic development committee is scheduled to discuss the matter Tuesday morning.

Lansdowne Park: A study in exceptions to the rule

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By Steve Collins, Metro Ottawa

It will bring little joy to long-suffering neighbours, but granting construction crews at Lansdowne Park an exemption from noise bylaws, allowing work to continue around the clock when needed, fits a well-established pattern. The park's redevelopment has been a study in exceptions, advice rejected and rules bent.

The cancellation of a competitive bid process in favour of a sole-sourced deal with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group set the tone — and fuelled lawsuits from Friends of Lansdowne, a residents' group opposed to the redevelopment, and the Lansdowne Park Conservancy, whose competing proposal would have kept the park in public hands but didn't get a serious look.

Friends of Lansdowne, for their part, were threatened with a change in policy that would allow the city to go after the citizens' association for legal costs. Last year, city lawyers grew impatient with the court's deliberations in the case and wrote a rather unusual letter asking when a decision might be expected.

Time and again, city officials have pleaded the urgency of the redevelopment and looming deadlines to justify cutting the odd procedural corner. Often, those deadlines seemed largely self-inflicted.

Take the snap vote council took to authorize $400,000 for a bid on two FIFA events, the under-20 Women's World Cup in 2014 and the Women's World Cup in 2015. Impending deadlines, we were told, meant the money was needed right away, and once the bids went ahead, we'd need the new venue in which to host them, stat.

The benefits of hosting such major-league events aren't seriously in doubt, but booking them into a nonexistent stadium? Possibly a bit rash.

As events shook out, the under-20 World Cup won't take place here in 2014, so now the replacement exigency is the need to have everything in place for North American Soccer League and Canadian Football League teams next year.

Next year will also, incidentally, be an election year, which might be the best explanation for all the hustle.

Lansdowne's Horticulture Building, which will turn 100 in 2014, stood in the way of planned retail space and underground parking. So we uprooted and relocated it in a rather impressive feat of engineering that nonetheless contravened the advice of the city's heritage advisory committee and the provincial Conservation Review Board, who were of the staid opinion that the historic building should stay in its historic location. Terribly sorry, exceptional circumstances, etc.

The question, after all these exceptions, is whether we'll end up with something truly exceptional at Lansdowne Park. The city and OSEG and the sun-dappled conceptual drawings assure us we will.

Late-night construction at Lansdowne approved

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Concrete pouring work also approved at former convent site

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Ottawa city council has approved a motion to extend construction hours at Lansdowne Park and the site of a former convent in Westboro.

The motion will allow construction crews at Lansdowne Park to work as late as 1 a.m. for concrete pouring, three to four times a month.

It is work that must be done all at once and continuously, because of limited manpower, according to councillor Steve Desroches.

The motion also allows for work crews to work past 1 a.m. in rare cases when they need to work later, but the city's project manager for Lansdowne said any overnight work would be limited to finishing work.

Capital Ward councillor David Chernushenko, who represents residents living near the Lansdowne construction, dissented with the motion. He said he hoped work like this is a last resort, and said he hoped residents continue to get enough warning.

Chernushenko says he found out about the Lansdowne construction hour change yesterday, and said most area residents are likely learning of it today.

The motion also allows for construction at 114 Richmond Road, the site of the former Sisters of the Visitation convent, to go all night until May, then until 2 a.m. through the end of August.

Lansdowne, Westboro convent construction exempted from late-night noise bylaws

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By David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — Massive construction projects at Lansdowne Park and at a former convent on Richmond Road just got a little worse for nearby residents: City council gave builders permission Wednesday for noisy concrete work at both sites to run late into the night.

The trouble, according to the motions councillors approved Wednesday, is that when concrete is poured in cold weather it has to be warmed with gas heaters so it sets properly. Councillors exempted both projects from the city's usual construction-noise bylaw. The exemptions are slightly different for each site, but will effectively allow heaters to run 24 hours a day until May and to let work go on till 1 a.m. several days a week.

On a couple of occasions at Lansdowne, councillors heard, concrete will have to be poured around the clock. Residents will have to be warned at least two days in advance.

The approval for the convent site at 114 Richmond Rd., where Ashcroft is building a condominium complex, was unanimous; Glebe councillor David Chernushenko was the lone vote against the approval for Lansdowne, "in solidarity" with residents.

They've been through a lot, Chernushenko said, starting with preliminary construction a year ago, digging and dust in the hot summer, and lately weeks of compaction work, in which soil is pressed down soil so it can built on.

"Which, if you haven't heard it, is short for having the fillings in your teeth shaken for hours on end," Chernushenko said.

Worse than that, nearby residents were among those most opposed to the Lansdowne redevelopment project in the first place.

Construction manager Marco Manconi said everything that can be done to minimize the effects on neighbours is being done. But the nature of the work and the intense construction schedule needed to get the site ready for football games by summer 2014 makes the inconvenience unavoidable.

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Drugstore, banks named as Lansdowne tenants

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By David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — A chain drugstore and two big banks have been added to the roster of tenants at the renovated Lansdowne Park, according to the development company handling the retail leasing there.

Rexall, TD-Canada Trust and BMO are now listed on the website of Trinity Developments, whose president John Ruddy is a partner in the private group working with the city government to redevelop the dilapidated fairground in the Glebe. They join marquee tenants like Whole Foods and Empire Cinemas, and second-tier ones like restaurants Joey, Jack Astor's and Il Fornello.

Rexall claims 40 stores in Ottawa already, though none in the Glebe or Old Ottawa South. The Glebe has a Scotiabank and a Royal Bank but no TD or BMO.

"What can I say? It would be an awful stretch to call them unique and distinctive," said Coun. David Chernushenko, who represents the area and has consistently voted against the roughly $400-million deal between the city and the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) to refurbish Frank Clair Stadium and the surrounding fairground. "It's what I feared would happen in the end.

"Now here council is in a place where you can't go back. ... I don't think anyone envisaged redeveloping Lansdowne so you could go make your weekly deposit at the bank machine, get a prescription filled and buy some toilet paper."

Just what kind of shopping destination Lansdowne would be has been a moving target. Critics of the plans have called the retail aspect — meant to provide a lot of the income that's supposed to pay for the project over several decades — little more than a shopping mall on public land. OSEG has promised a shopping experience unique in Ottawa, but has added that Lansdowne's shops will have to include less exciting things, too, that will fill in the gaps in the Glebe's established retail strip on Bank Street. People going to football games at the fixed-up stadium, for instance, need places to eat and they won't all be Michelin-starred bistros.

"I wouldn't call them unique," allowed Coun. Rainer Bloess, who's voted for the Lansdowne plans, about the newly announced tenants. "But that doesn't mean they're not appropriate. In order to make the experience whole, you need certain types of services and goods that might not be exactly 'unique'."

City council has given the final go-ahead for the redevelopment and construction crews have been working rapidly since early fall. The work is supposed to be finished by summer 2015.

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Search opens for Lansdowne 'urban park' builder

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By Neco Cockburn, Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — The city is starting to look for someone to build the large "urban park" planned for the eastern and southern parts of a redeveloped Lansdowne Park.

It seeks to qualify companies that "are most capable of undertaking the construction of the urban park proper and meeting the high-quality design intent of the landscape architect," according to tender documents published on Thursday.

The park is a major part of the plans for the redeveloped Glebe site, which is also to feature a renovated Frank Clair Stadium along with residential space, stores and restaurants.

The company that's eventually chosen will work with Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg, the Vancouver-based firm that won a design competition for the park.

Park uses will range from recreation and leisure to community events and concerts, the listing states.

"The overall design of the park reflects this multi-faceted approach, and anticipates the various needs and requirements of the area depending on what the community and the city uses the space for, at any given time of the year."

The park's design team is led by Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg and includes Stantec Engineering (civil, mechanical and electrical consultants), Jill Anholt (public art consultant) and Julian Smith & Associates, Architects (Horticulture Building architect), the documents state.

The tender closing date is March 4.

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If you don’t find the information you need on these pages, please visit, or to contact the City directly by email at newlansdowne@ottawa.caor by calling 3-1-1 (press 1 for English, then 5 for the Lansdowne line). If necessary, you may also contact the project manager, Marco Manconi, at 613-580-2424 ext. 43229, or by email.