Lansdowne anchor tenant Empire Theatres bails out of cinema industry

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By David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — The owner of the movie theatre being built at Lansdowne Park is getting out of the cinema business, leaving the future of the theatre at the controversial redevelopment site unclear.

Empire Co., which owns Empire Theatres and the Sobeys supermarket chain, is selling its movie houses to focus on the grocery business, the company announced Thursday morning.

The existing theatres are being divided between Cineplex Inc. and Landmark Cinemas. Cineplex is paying $200 million cash for Empire's holdings in Atlantic Canada and Calgary-based Landmark is part of a more complicated buyout of Empire's cinemas in the West. They're splitting Empire's holdings in Ontario, with Cineplex picking up its theatre in Kanata and one in Whitby and Landmark getting the rest, including one in Orléans.

None of the companies' news releases Thursday specifically said anything about Empire's movie theatres at Ottawa's Exchange Centre or what will happen to the one under construction at Lansdowne.

"We haven't yet had conversation with the developer regarding its final state," said Empire spokesman Andrew Walker from Mississauga. Empire has a lease with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, the consortium of developers redeveloping Lansdowne in partnership with the City of Ottawa, to operate a theatre there and Walker said he expects Empire will honour it.

There's supposed to be a cinema at Lansdowne and he expects there will be one, in other words. "It was a commitment that was made and I would expect it to continue in that state," Walker said.

City manager given authority to execute Lansdowne deals

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By Alex Boutilier, Metro

Ottawa's finance committee signed off on expanding the city manager's authority to execute parts of the Lansdowne Park redevelopment project with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group Tuesday.

If approved by council, the move would grant City Manager Kent Kirkpatrick the authority to give the city's consent for requests from OSEG within the parametres of the legal and financial agreements approved by council last year.

Kirkpatrick said the move was necessary, given the tight timelines for the project.

The first project on Kirkpatrick's plate will be the construction of retail and office buildings. Minto, whose CEO sits on OSEG's board, has been recommended for the project.

Lansdowne urban park price tag estimated at $20m-$25m

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By Alex Boutilier, Metro

The City of Ottawa is expecting to pay $20 million to $25 million for an urban park at Lansdowne, according to tender documents.

That estimate includes all components of the park, including two major public art installations, a refrigerated skating rink, a new skateboard park, and a "great lawn" on the park's southeast corner.

Jeff Byrne, the head of the city's supply branch, said the price tag is an estimate only. The contract will be awarded to the lowest responsive bid.

The city announced four companies had prequalified to bid on the multi-million dollar contract last week. The city went the pre-qualification route, Byrne said, due to the size, complexity and timelines associated with the project.

"The Lansdowne redevelopment includes multiple project components, underway concurrently and with extremely tight timelines and therefore this pre-qualification process was deemed appropriate," Byrne wrote in an email.

The successful contractor will have incentives to meet that aggressive timeline. If all work on the northeastern section of the park is completed by May 30, 2014, the contractor gets a $60,000 bonus. If work on the southern section is completed by October 31 later that year, the contractor is eligible for an additional $40,000.

If deadlines are missed the contractor could be slapped with up to $100,000 in "disincentives" fees, depending on how long the delay lasts.

The tender documents are in the hands of the contractors, but will not be made public until June 10. Final completion of the contract is set for May 2015.

Prequalified bidders for the Lansdowne urban park:

  • Carillion Canada Inc. — Concord, Ontario
  • D&G Landscaping — Greely, Ontario
  • Doran Contractors — Ottawa, Ontario
  • Ottawa Greenbelt Construction Co. Ltd. — Ottawa, Ontario

City staff ask for more authority in Lansdowne approvals

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By Alex Boutilier, Metro

Given tight timelines for the construction of Lansdowne Park, Ottawa's city manager is looking for more authority to execute deals with Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group.

The authority, if approved, would give City Manager Kent Kirkpatrick the ability to directly sign off on matters relating to the Lansdowne Partnership Plan.

In a report due before the city's finance and economic development committee Tuesday, staff note the authority would only extend to provisions already contained within the legal agreement between the city and OSEG. Any proposed changes to that agreement would still require committee and council approval.

That same report indicates construction at the Lansdowne Park redevelopment is as scheduled and on budget. The report also recommends Minto Communities construct retail sections under its residential buildings, as well as the office building.

"OSEG notes that it is preferable from cost, engineering, construction and warranty perspectives to have one contractor instead of two different contractors build these portions of the retail base buildings and the residential and office buildings above them," the report states. "Minto would earn a fee for the construction of these retail base buildings but the city has received assurances from Minto that the fee being earned is at or below current market rates for equivalent services."

Minto's CEO, Roger Greenberg, is a partner at OSEG. The city's finance and economic development committee is scheduled to discuss the matter Tuesday morning.