For Immediate Release
October 25, 2019
Updated November 4, 2019
CITY LOOKS TO GIVE AWAY FULL CONTROL OF LANSDOWNE PARK TO FOR-PROFIT PARTNERS
Ottawa—In a staff report coming to the Finance and Economic Development Committee (FEDCO) on November 5th, 2019, the city is seeking to direct staff to strike a deal with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) to transfer operations, programming and city control of half of the site over to OSEG. This would mean Aberdeen Pavilion, Aberdeen Square, the Horticulture Building, the Great Lawn and other areas of Lansdowne would be transferred in a commercialization of the remaining public space at Lansdowne. No business plan has been presented for such a move. No vendors who rent the space have been informed and zero public consultation has taken place.
“The city programming has been quite good on the site,” notes Capital Ward Shawn Menard. “We have good programming that is free and family-friendly, like the Farmers’ Market and 613Flea. There are nearly 100 free events we offer in a public park right now. The city is also under budget and returns funds back to city coffers every year.”
The report does not articulate a real public policy concern that would be addressed by ceding control of the public park. It speaks of the need to avoid scheduling conflicts, but the coordination of programming has not been a big issue, argues Menard.
In fact, the report raises the question of whom Lansdowne Park should be benefiting. This report was initiated by a letter from OSEG to the city on September 24th, 2019. One month later, a city report has been released echoing this position.
“If anything,” says the Councillor, “keeping the city involved in programming helps ensure that Lansdowne is run for the benefit of the city, as a whole—for the benefit of all residents. That is the city’s job, to look out for residents. I would be more than happy to find some middle ground on this, but the report is black and white”.
The report will go to FEDCO on November 5 and then to City Council the next day on November 6, giving the public and city councillors very little time to deliberate on this important issue. Community Associations in the area have organized a hastily-called public meeting to discuss the issue on Monday, October 28th, 2019, from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm at the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne Park.
“It’s very disappointing,” laments Menard. “Lansdowne is a tremendous public asset, and yet the city seems eager to turn it all over to a private entity, whose primary objective is to make profit, with little public oversight or scrutiny.”
You can download this press release here [PDF].
- 30 -
OSEG did not take the character of the local community into account in developing the Lansdowne site, and did not pay attention to making it a unique shopping destination, with a mix of retail operations not found in typical malls/shopping centres. It is very telling that the Lansdowne venues running at a profit are those managed by the City of Ottawa. Having badly misread what would work in this location, why should OSEG be given more control of it? There are other options: What prevents Ottawa from establishing a dedicated in-house, professional marketing and event-management team of its own that could also have a complementary role re: the many arts and cultural events that take place here? Developers have long held too much sway in the way the city is evolving, crowding out important considerations beyond the profit motive that make for world-class places to live and visit. Ottawa would do well to learn from the experience of other cities in those regards, notably Scandinavian ones. It also needs to disallow developers from making contributions to the election efforts of city councillors – and especially the mayor – or at least place strict limits on allowable contribution amounts, to avoid their continuing to have undue levels of influence on our collective future here.
Privatization of Lansdowne will affect my financial ability to attend events currently held there, such as KumbouchaFest & the Sculpting Expo held there, more recently.
Private management of a public space, institution or resource has huge implications for accessibility and accountability (to anyone but shareholders) by prioritizing revenue generation over community and citizen engagement. Stop commodifying public spaces, and stop shutting down democratic debate and discussion!
First the city restricts parking because they want the city to bus to Lansdowne now they want to restrict the people in the area even more by ensuring that it’s managed by a corporation. No wonder tourism is down in the Glebe. I’m all for change, but positive change and supported community events would be greatly appreciated. I’m shocked that the Sunnyside st Library Branch wasn’t moved into Lansdowne to permit more foot traffic with more room? I love the farmers market and the 613 Flea events etc, but if hobbiest/ small business pers don’t have the support by the city, and farm it out to corporate then we’ll all lose. Take the money from the wallpapering the traffic and electrical boxes. Do we really need to have “My fair lady” posing on an electrical box (that has nothing to do with the city) – put the money towards supporting the community instead.
There are many activities that are hosted in these areas of Lansdowne.
Moving forward: These areas should be maintained as public spaces that allow participation for all community members and maintain events like 613Flea as a free event open to all.
I am an active participant in 613flea which is a monthly FREE event open to ALL. from what I have read so far it seems paramount to keep Lansdowne as a public asset. Jon Spence