Lansdowne plans move forward

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City committee approves new finances, timeline

GLEBE - Glebe merchants are threatening to launch an appeal and another man has filed a second court challenge against the Lansdowne redevelopment plan, but that didn't stop city councillors from endorsing a new financial plan and timeline for the project.

The city's finance and economic development committee gave the thumb's up to the updated plan on Aug. 18, after city manager Kent Kirkpatrick said the project is "stronger now than it was" in June of 2010, when city council first approved the redevelopment plan, which is a partnership with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG).

But that came after a few barbs leveled at councillors by Paul Webber, a lawyer representing the Glebe Business Improvement Area (BIA).

The city broke its promise to block fashion retail stores from moving into Lansdowne, Webber charged, and Glebe businesses will fight the city if it tries to allow those types of stores on the site.

City of Ottawa's Lansdowne legal tab to swell by another $200,000

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By David Reevely, The Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — The city expects to spend as much as another $200,000 fighting in court to defend its plans for Lansdowne Park — and perhaps more, as new legal threats land at City Hall.

That could take the total tab past $1.7 million.

City council voted Thursday to continue with its Lansdowne plans, accepting a longer timeline for the project that will see work finished in 2015, two years later than it was all supposed to have been done. Councillors also agreed to revised financial projections that strengthen the city's financial position somewhat, but also to spend more money sooner on the project's design work and on preparing to move the historic Horticulture Building elsewhere on the Glebe site to make way for a parking garage and commercial space. The vote was 21-2, with downtown councillors David Chernushenko and Diane Holmes dissenting.

Part of the delay is caused by a court case brought by a community group called the Friends of Lansdowne Park. According to a report to councillors, the litigation occupied a great deal of staff time before Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland in July rejected the Friends' allegations that the city's deal with the private Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (to renovate Frank Clair Stadium and construct retail and commercial space along the northern and western edges of the site) amounts to an illegal subsidy, violated the city's procurement bylaw and was negotiated in bad faith.

The Friends have filed formal notice of their intention to appeal, and city solicitor Rick O'Connor told councillors that he expects the next stage of the case to cost between $100,000 and $200,000 in fees for the private lawyers hired to represent the city. There's room allowed for it in the revised timeline for the project.

Lansdowne delays could impact FIFA bid

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Laura Mueller / OTTAWA THIS WEEK

GLEBE - The community is still trying to absorb the impact of an almost-yearlong delay in the Lansdowne redevelopment project.

Perhaps the most significant fallout could be the effect on the city's bid to host two FIFA women's world-cup soccer games in 2015. Ottawa is one of seven cities in the running to host two women's world cup soccer tournaments in July of 2014 and June of 2015.

Under the revised timelines released in a city report on Aug. 12, the stadium wouldn't be ready to use until early 2014.

A representative from the Canadian Soccer Association did not respond to requests to comment on the potential impact of the delay on its FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) bid, but Coun. Steve Desroches said FIFA could "find some comfort" in city council's desire to move forward on the project.

"I think it's critical that we keep to the timelines so that we can provide those assurances to FIFA," Desroches said.

He added that he isn't aware of any concerns that have been expressed by the organizers of the U-20 Women's World Cup (2014) and FIFA Women's World Cup (2015).

Capital Ward Coun. David Chernushenko refrained from saying "I told you so," but as the lone dissenter on the motion to seek the FIFA tournaments, he said he wouldn't be surprised if the revised timelines had some impact on the stadium's readiness to host the events.

But he added that as a soccer fan, he hopes FIFA would look at other, perhaps more important, factors that go into hosting a successful sporting event, such as the atmosphere of the capital, associated entertainment events and transportation options.

"(Ottawa) would appeal because it's the capital," Chernushenko said. "You can host an event in an unfinished stadium."

Temporary stands could be installed in the interim if the stadium is not fully completed, Chernushenko said.

Chernushenko was also quick to dismiss claims that the Friends of Lansdowne legal challenge was the main or only reason for the delay.

"I continue to resent that implication," he said, adding that there have been many delays on OSEG and the designers' side as well.

As for whether the reconstruction of Bank Street in the Glebe could have waited until next year, Chenushenko said he would have approached the issue differently if he had known Lansdowne would be delayed.

"In life, you have to make decisions based on the information you have at the time," he said, noting that waiting until 2012 to reconstruct the street still would not have allowed the city to find funds to bury the hydro wires.

Heritage agency ready to compromise on Lansdowne plan

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By David Reevely, The Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — The provincial heritage agency that controls key aspects of the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park can live with the redevelopment planned for the property as long as the historic centrepiece of the site is preserved and enhanced, according to an agreement it's reached with the city.

No final agreement has been reached between the city and the Ontario Heritage Trust, but they do have a deal on broad principles that allow planning work on the Lansdowne project to continue. Although city staff reported to councillors last week that they'd reached that deal, neither body wanted to release its terms — spokesmen for each said they were afraid of offending each other, and the negotiations are delicate.

But in essence, the agreement lets Lansdowne Park be redeveloped as long as the result is to put the Aberdeen Pavilion in a more attractive setting that gets more use than the sea of parking that surrounds it now.

The trust bought a crucial degree of control over the city-owned Lansdowne Park in 1992, when it contributed $2 million toward the $4.5-million repair of the pavilion at a time when the former city of Ottawa was scrounging for money. It secured not only the city's promise to protect and preserve the Aberdeen Pavilion, but also wide sightlines to the building from Queen Elizabeth Drive and Bank Street.