Doubts build, but council likely to approve Lansdowne redevelopment

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By David Reevely, The Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — Ottawa's city councillors are looking forward to asking some questions about the Lansdowne Park redevelopment plans in very stern voices, but neither a vague report on the expected retail tenants there nor worse financial projections seem likely to derail the project.

Of the councillors approached by the Citizen, only Diane Deans, who voted against the Lansdowne redevelopment in the early going but switched to become a reluctant supporter as it gained momentum, signalled she might bring the tally of No votes to three out of 24 members of city council.

"I'm really not comfortable. All the way along we've been asking about cost overruns and who pays for them and we've been given assurances all along that we won't have these kind of cost overruns and now it's quite clear that we will," she said.

According to the latest financial report on the city's joint venture with a group of developers and sports businessmen, the city's up-front costs have increased $12 million, to about $218 million in all.

"The whole thing was portrayed as a new destination with a new kind of shopping experience and that doesn't seem to have materialized, either," Deans added. In the same package of reports the city released late Tuesday, an account of the businesses that have signed leases revealed that the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group has nailed down nobody besides the long-announced Whole Foods grocery store and an Empire Theatres cinema. They account for 90,000 square feet of the expected 360,000 square feet of retail space at Lansdowne, though OSEG says another 174,000 square feet are very nearly spoken for by tenants who just haven't quite reached the point of signing leases.

The project comes up for final votes by city council's finance committee on Oct. 2 and full city council Oct. 10. Deans described her vote as "in doubt at the moment." She'd join Capital Coun. David Chernushenko and Somerset Coun. Diane Holmes, who've voted against the project every time they've had a chance, if she opposes it.

City should know retailers before OKing Lansdowne deal: Councillor

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By Alex Boutilier, Metro News

Capital Coun. David Chernushenko is disappointed Ottawa city council will not have an opportunity to see what retailers are being considered for the Lansdowne Park redevelopment before they are asked to approve the $400 million project.

After a council meeting Wednesday morning, Chernushenko said council should not be forced to blindly trust Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group to select appropriate retail tenants.

"Why is it down to me, the opponent, to be saying this isn't good enough. I would think the proponents should be asking the same question," Chernushenko told reporters.

"We need those names. We can't just say 'trust us, sign here.' This is the last chance. This is where we sign the cheque. And it can't be a blank one."

But Mayor Jim Watson said it's not the names of individual retailers, but the mix, that's important.

"What council asked for was we make sure there's a good retail mix and there are unique opportunities and that we fulfill that requirement," Watson said. "The actual names of the stores and the shops and the restaurants will come with time."

Watson added OSEG has a legal requirement to adhere to the mix of retail suggested by council.

"It's a legal agreement (OSEG has) to live up to, and unless they ask us for a change in that agreement we expect that they'll live up to that agreement," he said.

Doubts growing about Lansdowne plan

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By Jon Willing, Ottawa Sun

There's a hunger to find out more about who's setting up shop at Lansdowne Park and some councillors are casting doubt on the redevelopment.

The city says 73% of the retail space is either under a signed lease or a final negotiation.

The names of most of the companies are secret.

Capital Coun. David Chernushenko, who represents the Glebe, wants to know who the retail tenants will be. He said he will vote against the project when it comes to council Oct. 10.

The finance and economic development committee will hear public delegations on the redevelopment next Tuesday.

"I can't buy it anymore when we're just told 'trust us, we're in negotiations' because negotiations sometimes fail," Chernushenko said Wednesday.

"We cannot and should not be voting on this if we don't know otherwise it's a leap of faith and all along there have been leaps of faith. This is the final moment when there shouldn't be a leap of faith."

Mayor Jim Watson is calling for patience.

"The actual names of the stores and the shops and the reassurance will come with time but first and foremost we have to adopt the agreement," Watson said.

Lansdowne redevelopment over budget

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CTV News

One of the biggest projects in Ottawa's history is coming in over budget.

The Lansdowne Park redevelopment is expected to cost about $12 million more than first projected.

The number came out of highly-anticipated report updating the redevelopment costs and plans.

The stadium will be $3.3 million more than first thought, a parking garage will cost $5.6 more, and $3.1 million more will go to site servicing.

Some Ottawa residents say they are eager for construction to get underway.

"What was there before was terrible... although it's not the best thing ever, they're doing something and they're doing something quickly and I appreciate it," said Ottawa resident Jamie Nowiski.

Others say they are worried about how the space will be used.

"I'm concerned about the density of it with all of the condominiums and I'm also concerned about the impact that the businesses will have on the rest of Bank St.," said Ottawa resident Katrin Nagelschmitz.

Ian Lee and the Friends of Lansdowne group took the city to court over the redevelopment plans. They lost their case.

Still, Lee says some things in the report are positive.

"They're not proceeding with the Municipal Services Corporation which would have taken Lansdowne Park outside of the scrutiny of city council, so that was a pleasant surprise," Lee said.

The report was sparing on details of which retailers will set up shop at the new Lansdown Park. Whole Foods and Empire Theatres are coming to the site.

Lee says a full list of retailers should have been announced.

"People could say 'well that's just a detail that will come later' but the entire Lansdowne proposal was sold on the basis that it's going to be unique and that all of the tenants coming in are going to be really unique," Lee said.

The stadium is expected to be completed by the summer of 2014, just in time for the FIFA Women's World Cup and the return of a CFL team.

The entire redevelopment project is expected to be finished by 2015.

The report will be discussed at a Finance and Economic Development Committee meeting next week. Councillors will vote on the report Oct. 10.

With files from CTV's Katie Griffin.