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Lansdowne 2.0 passes another hurdle

The latest vision for Lansdowne Park, presented earlier this year, includes two residential towers instead of three, and no more green roof atop the relocated arena. (City of Ottawa - image credit)
The latest vision for Lansdowne Park, presented earlier this year, includes two residential towers instead of three, and no more green roof atop the relocated arena. (City of Ottawa - image credit)

UPDATE: On April 17, 2024, city council voted in favour of the finance committee recommendations for Lansdowne 2.0, including staff's preferred procurement model, funding for detailed design work and a $20-million line of credit for the project partnership.

PWHL Ottawa player Jincy Roese is tired of mouldy hockey equipment.

"We have a ventilation issue within our locker room and our gear doesn't dry properly, and because of that it's constantly wet and growing mould," she said.

"That's not professional at all."

Roese doesn't want to wait any longer than necessary for the Lansdowne 2.0 redevelopment project to get moving. On Tuesday, city councillors pushed it another step forward, as finance committee voted 10 to two in favour of staff's preferred procurement model and funding to finish up design work on the arena and stadium stands

Those decisions still have to go to a full meeting of council. If they pass, the design work will open the door for a construction tender to go out next year.

That should pin down a more precise price tag than the current $419-million estimate. Once the bids come in, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said the city will make sure the project sticks to a budget.

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe oversees a city council meeting on Mar. 6, 2024.
Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe oversees a city council meeting on Mar. 6, 2024.

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe oversees a city council meeting earlier this month. On Tuesday, council approved a vote on what the contract for Landsdowne 2.0 will look like. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

"That's always challenging when you're dealing with a project of this magnitude, but I think it's critically important that we move as quickly as possible to determining what the price is going to be and we continue to move forward within that budget," said Sutcliffe.

But Capital ward Coun. Shawn Menard said the project now seems riskier than ever.

"I think that there's a lot of risk that remains in the project. In fact, it's only getting greater with a new line of credit, with $4-million of staff time invested in only one idea. So there's a concern there," said Menard.

That one idea is the concept plan prepared by Brisbin Brook Beynon Architects. The committee voted to stick with those architects, instead of putting the detailed design work out to an open competition.

Capital ward Coun. Shawn Menard attends a Transit Commission meeting on Nov. 14, 2023.
Capital ward Coun. Shawn Menard attends a Transit Commission meeting on Nov. 14, 2023.

Capital ward Coun. Shawn Menard attends a Transit Commission meeting in November. Menard was one of the two councillors who voted against. (Michel Aspirot/CBC)

Sean Moore, the city's director of the the Lansdowne Park redevelopment project, said residents shouldn't expect any radical changes as the work moves forward.

He said the public will still get a chance to weigh in on the details, like the event centre facade and new plaza space.

Critics say city is rushing project

Roese wasn't alone in pushing for the redevelopment. Disability advocate Marnie Peters told councillors it's unacceptable to wait much longer to replace an inaccessible facility.

"This is not a nice-to-have remodeling job," she said. "This is about dignity and basic human rights."

Representatives of the Glebe Business Improvement District and Ottawa Tourism also showed up to support the project.

But critics agreed with Menard that the project is just too risky and faces too many unknowns, from a pending appeal at the Ontario Land Tribunal to the results of an auditor general report expected in June. They called for a pause.

Staff figured they have about a year left to get blueprints done before they have to comply with a new 2024 building code. They said redrawing plans to meet the new standards would risk pushing up costs.

That didn't go over well with several delegates who came to council on Tuesday, like June Creelman. She compared designing the new arena and stadium stands to comply with the existing building code to buying a computer with "an operating system that is about to expire."

"We're rushing ahead and making decisions that are not in the public interest, and I'm specifically concerned that we're not learning from what happened with the LRT," said Creelman.

"This is a long-term decision. This is a half-billion dollars being invested into the future of Ottawa."

But Moore disputed that the project is being "rushed." In his view, the 10 to 13-month timeframe for design work is appropriate for the project.

And staff were clear that council will still have one more chance to halt the project, if they so choose.

"We will go to market, solicit bids from the construction industry and then return to council to approve that final price," said the city's chief procurement officer, Will McDonald.

"That will all happen before any construction activities take place, so it truly is a go/no-go decision point."