By David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA — Construction is to begin in earnest at Lansdowne Park next week now that Ottawa's city council has given its final approval to plans to redevelop the site.
The vote on Wednesday, the very last one in a four-year City Hall odyssey for the dilapidated Glebe fairground unless something extraordinary happens, was 21-3, with councillors Diane Holmes, David Chernushenko and Diane Deans voting against.
The vote means the city will move ahead with a half-billion-dollar partnership with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group that would renovate Frank Clair Stadium and the Civic Centre hockey rink beneath it for sports franchises, replace the parking lot in Lansdowne's southeast quadrant with a major new park, and construct retail, office and residential space along the site's north and west edges to pay for it all over several decades.
Mayor Jim Watson said he expects that "Lansdowne will become a true gathering place as was its original purpose back in the 1800s." Trying to renew it was one of his first projects as a newly elected city councillor in 1991, he said, and although it's taken a very long time, he's glad a renovation is finally happening.
"We can't rewrite history. We can only make sure we don't repeat it," Watson said.
Other construction has been underway all summer, on parts of Lansdowne that would ostensibly need work even if council had voted the deal down — digging up contaminated soil before construction begins on an underground garage and preparing to move the Horticulture Building farther east on the site. (The historic building is already up off its foundation and on its way.) But with the vote in hand, contractors from Pomerleau will start on OSEG's commercial construction as well.