Lansdowne $12M over budget

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By Jon Willing, Ottawa Sun

The Lansdowne Park redevelopment is $12-million over budget because of legal delays and results of a construction tender, the city says.

New reports on the project published late Tuesday afternoon suggest an 18-month delay in the construction start date alone cost $8.2 million in inflationary increases.

Now, the city's total capital responsibility for the stadium, urban park, residential and office components, the new trade show facility at the airport and social housing policy is projected to be $218.7 million.

Debt will pay for more than 70% of the bill.

The cost increases are pinned to the stadium ($3.3 million extra), parking garage ($5.6 million) and servicing for the office, residential and public areas ( $3.1 million).

The urban park, which was subject to a design competition, is on budget and on schedule.

Staff have also negotiated a plan to insulate taxpayers against cost overruns to the stadium, arena and parking garage. The Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group will pick up the extra costs, but it will be considered additional equity. Payments to OSEG under the revenue-sharing scheme would be accelerated, one report says.

The construction timelines have not changed, the city says. Stadium events can begin in summer 2014.

On the sports side, OSEG will be required to operate a CFL team for at least eight years, three more than originally negotiated with the city. In return, OSEG will receive flexibility from the city to sell the football team or the Ottawa 67s hockey club.

In terms of naming rights, the city will be able to retain the rights for the urban park facilities, while OSEG gets control over the name of the stadium and retail components.

The city is happy with how OSEG's retail leasing is coming along.

According to a new report dated Aug. 30, 73% of the retail space is leased or in final negotiations with "strong tenants." The city's retail consultant calls it a "good position to be in" at this point in the game.

There are no retail names offered, but Whole Foods, LCBO and Empire Cinemas are already slotted.

In other new developments on the Lansdowne file, staff are recommending against striking a municipal services corporation to oversee the property when construction is done.

At Frank Clair Stadium, the scoreboard will be moved to the west side of the field and there are "minor" changes to the striking wooden veil behind the south-side stands.

If council gives the final sign off, the official legal close of the agreement will happen around Oct. 15.

The finance and economic development committee will first vet the agreements next Tuesday.

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Twitter: @JonathanWilling

Lansdowne deal ready to go, city officials say

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By David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — The Lansdowne plans have lived up to their promises and the city should sign a deal to redevelop the rundown city property in the Glebe, the city's staff say.

City council has voted several times since 2009 to firm up aspects of the $400-million joint venture with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, but now a truly final vote to sign an agreement with that group of property developers and sports businessmen is due Oct. 10.

The recommendation comes without a set of details many skeptics of the project consider vital: the names of the retailers that OSEG has signed to leases for the new commercial buildings the deal would see built along the north and west edges of Lansdowne Park. A report from retail consultants J.C. Williams Group says the mix of merchants fits the criteria set by city council in an earlier vote and acceptable to the existing Glebe merchants' association — restaurants and food-sellers, clothing stores and electronics vendors, anchored by previously announced locations of the Whole Foods grocery chain, an LCBO outlet and a movie theatre — but doesn't precisely identify the tenants.

"This is our last shot before it goes ahead," said an irate Capital Coun. David Chernushenko. "I'm disappointed that it looks like we aren't going to have that information."

Still, he said, "I don't think it'll be enough to keep my colleagues from voting 'Yeah! Let's do it!'"

The redevelopment includes a renovation to Frank Clair Stadium so it can again host major-league football and minor-league soccer teams, residential and office space to go with the retail, and a new urban park in Lansdowne's southeast quadrant, near the historic Aberdeen Pavilion. The city is fronting most of the money but expects to recoup it over decades as it shares in the profits from OSEG's many ventures on the site.

Lansdowne cost overruns escape easy explanation

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By Susan Sherring, Ottawa Sun

Taxpayers will be forking out more dough for Lansdowne Park, and getting a bit less for their money.

The much-anticipated update report on Lansdowne Park came out late in the day Tuesday, revealing the budget is up by $12 million, and plans for the makeover scaled down.

The final cost is now set at $218.7 million.

Not surprisingly, city staffers are blaming much of the $12-million increase on Friends of Lansdowne Inc., which stalled the deal with their legal wrangling.

There's no doubt Friends aren't really friends of the city.

The legal manoeuvring wasn't their finest moment, and it hurt the project.

The constant appeals dragged on, even when it was clear they didn't have a hope, or a legal leg to stand on.

The real loser was the reputation of the Friends of Lansdowne themselves.

Their loss cost taxpayers, though it's difficult to swallow the staff report in its entirety.

Final Lansdowne recommendation due Tuesday

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Glebe Councillor expects to be disappointed with lists of shops in redevelopment

By David Reevely, The Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — The stores and restaurants bound for Lansdowne Park are likely to be disappointing, said the councillor for the Glebe on the eve of the release of the final set of city reports on the redevelopment plans.

"There's no question that filling those slots will be possible, but will it be Shoppers Drug Mart and Sport Chek ... or things that are unique to Ottawa, or places that the world has never known?" Councillor David Chernushenko asked.

He'd have liked to know for sure; as the councillor for the area, Chernushenko gets an early look at such reports before they go public. These are due in advance of a city council finance committee meeting next Tuesday. But as is routine when it comes to Lansdowne, the reports have been late. "They were expecting to get me them Thursday or Friday, and I sort of smiled wryly because that never happens," Chernushenko said Monday, still without the documents.

They're supposed to include a final recommendation from the city bureaucracy on whether to go ahead with a roughly $400-million plan to renovate Frank Clair Stadium, build shops and restaurants on the north and west edges of the city-owned property, and turn the southeast quadrant into a major urban park. The deal, a partnership with a handful of property developers and sports businessmen called the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, was sold to city council in 2009 as a chance to build a grand new public space in the city, bring back CFL football in the renovated stadium and give life to the historic Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne's heart.

Crucially, it's supposed to pay for itself over time, with the city's share of the profits from OSEG's new residential and commercial buildings eventually covering the city's up-front costs of more than $200 million. The reports are to include an updated financial forecast; those numbers have stayed fairly constant in previous updates and Chernushenko doesn't expect they'll change significantly this time. Certainly not enough to scuttle the plans.