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.

'Free' money no reason for secrecy in city of Ottawa projects

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Better process needed for spelling out transparency in private-public deals

By Joanne Chianello, CBC News

Surprises are good for birthdays. For spending $1 million of public money to alter public land on a deal negotiated and approved in secret, not so much.

Last week's announcement that the city will hand over $1 million to a private company to build a 50,000 square-foot playground on a beloved waterfront without informing councillors, without consulting the community, with no public details available about the deal — and not even a single pretty picture to woo us — is another display of a lack of transparency at the halls of municipal power.  

Questions, questions

In January, Sinking Ship Entertainment approached the city to build Canada's largest playground at Mooney's Bay for its Giver TV program that airs on TVO. Using children and adult volunteers, the show has built more than 40 playgrounds. Ottawa's — which the company estimates will be worth $2 million — would be a salute to Canada and a 2017 legacy project.

In return, Sinking Ship wanted $1 million in public money, as well as complete secrecy while conducting negotiations, during which the company reportedly changed its mind once or twice about coming to Ottawa.

Because the city money comes from a parkland fund that is meant for city-wide projects, bureaucrats were able to approve the funding without going to council first. That a city manager could spend $1 million on a park without their approval came as a surprise to some city councillors — and likely not a few taxpayers.

There are many unanswered questions over this deal that was hatched in secret in less than five months.

What are the details of the financing? Does the city bear any fiscal responsibility if the project runs out of money part-way through? Who exactly are the other partners and how much are they donating? Giver is trying to crowdfund $150,000 for the project. As of Thursday afternoon, it had raised $770. What happens if it doesn't raise the $150,000?

What were the criteria for the site? Why did Britannia or Andrew Haydon parks not qualify?

What will the long-term costs be of maintaining this new playground, costs that will fall to city taxpayers?

Pedestrians biggest loser at Lansdowne

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Putting parking on the Bank Street bridge could calm traffic and make the road less hostile for pedestrians heading to Lansdowne.


Fifty-eight per cent of fans took sustainable transportation to RedBlacks games last year, but only a fraction of that was on foot.

By Emma Jackson, Metro

Pedestrians are losing out at Lansdowne Park, and fixing Bank Street bridge could be the solution, Coun. David Chernushenko said Wednesday.
A staff report found that more than half of all visitors took alternative transportation to major events like RedBlacks games and the AC/DC concert last year.

But only eight to 10 per cent of visitors walked there, something Chernushenko said could change if Bank Street’s famously hostile bridge was more comfortable for pedestrians and cyclists.

“That couple of hundred metres continues to be a problem,” he said, particularly in off-peak hours when speeds pick up.

The bad reputation could be sending potential visitors elsewhere, he said, or adding to the Glebe's on-street parking shortage if they choose to drive.

Chernushenko asked staff to consider new ways to calm the bridge to make it more hospitable. He particularly wanted to take the street down to two lanes from four in off-peak hours, even if that meant adding on-street parking.

That idea was immediately decried on Twitter by cycling advocates who argued a bike lane would do more to promote safety and sustainable modes than parking.

“As if (Bank) wasn’t bad enough, let’s take away the passing lane and add car doors,” tweeted one frustrated rider.
Traffic planning manager Phil Landry said bike lanes and wider sidewalks weren’t feasible last time the bridge was rebuilt, and the green super sharrows have only resulted in “minor behavioural changes.”
He said speed boards would remind drivers to go 40 km/h.
Chernushenko also raised concerns about pedestrian space inside Lansdowne itself. Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which runs TD Place inside Lansdowne, has been criticized for channelling cars through what many thought would be a more community-oriented space.  
Brian Mitchell from the Glebe Community Association said that’s a major concern for his residents, who are struggling with high on-street parking rates.
“It has proven to have a very car-centric design, which is quite disappointing for a centrally-located destination in 2016,” Mitchell said.

If you don’t find the information you need on these pages, please visit ottawa.ca/newlansdowne, 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.