Council gives final go ahead to Lansdowne project

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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.

Final Lansdowne deal passed by council

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CBC News

Ottawa city council has approved the final plan for the redesign of Lansdowne Park, one that includes changes to the financial plan first put to council in 2010, by a vote of 21-3.

The only councillors who voted against the plan are Diane Deans, Diane Holmes and David Chernushenko. As it was expected the large majority of city council wanted to see the deal completed in order to begin construction.

Major construction could begin as soon as Monday, Oct. 15.

Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group is likely to see a large share of early returns from Lansdowne Park, in part because they have shouldered the early load on costs leading up to the project.

As part of their partnership to redevelop the park, the city and OSEG came up with a formula to determine the equity stake each had in the project. The funding equity is a measure of both investment in the project as well as risk.

In 2010 OSEG's initial investment, or funding equity, was set at $30 million. But delays and design changes mean they're now investing $56 million.

"We're putting a lot more equity into this than we ever expected, and so the risk to us, is much much greater than it was in 2010," said OSEG chair Roger Greenberg.

OSEG is also on the hook for any more cost overruns.

Lack of park retail detail irks councillor, City's portion of Lansdowne cost goes up by $12M, report finds

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By Laura Mueller, EMC

The cost to the city of redeveloping Lansdowne Park has risen by $12 million, but consultants are busy finding ways to defray the costs.

A report released on Sept. 25 advises city council to move forward with the plan and provides an updated snapshot of the costs, revenue and the retail mix.

The additional cost includes $3.3 million for the $74.9 million stadium, an extra $5.6 million to build a 1,370-space parking garage and $3.1 million more for the office, residential, and public components.

Eighteen months of delays caused by a rigorous design process and legal challenges brought by the Friends of Lansdowne and the Lansdowne Park Conservancy have put an additional $8.2 million budget pressure on the project.

The list of confirmed merchants (Empire Cinemas, Whole Foods and LCBO) coming to Lansdowne remains at three, but consultants say leases for 73 per cent of the retail space are very close to being signed, which is the norm for a development at this stage, according to the city report.

That didn't sit well with Capital Coun. David Chernushenko, who said he is still not comfortable with the messages he has received on retail at Lansdowne.

"There are a number of important aspects to this report, but the one that jumps out to me is the lack of detail on the retail," Chernushenko said. "This is the last and indeed almost only chance for councillors and for the public to know what it is we're buying into. What is it we're spending $165 million on ... . 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."

Lansdowne plans on brink of approval as city council finance committee signs off

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By David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — If city council takes a final vote to redevelop Lansdowne Park on Oct. 10, major construction will start less than a week later, councillors heard Tuesday morning.

To meet the aggressive schedule for having Frank Clair Stadium ready to host CFL football by summer 2014, the city intends to sign a contract with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group on Oct. 12 and to get work started on the stadium by Oct. 15, city manager Kent Kirkpatrick said at a meeting of council's finance committee.

The committee — chaired by Mayor Jim Watson and including the heads of council's other major committees — took its final vote on the project, approving the plans 10-1 with only Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans dissenting.

City council is to take the truly final vote, instructing Kirkpatrick to sign the necessary contracts with OSEG, next Wednesday.