Last summer, city staff were tasked with coming up with a plan to rejuvenate Lansdowne Park, with a specific focus on the development of new north side stands and a new event centre. As part of that work, city council directed staff to hold public consultations on how we could rejuvenate Lansdowne.
Unfortunately, those public consultations did not happen.
This month, city council is receiving the staff proposal for the future of Lansdowne, and council will decide how we will proceed on this large, important project.
Here are the Top Ten reasons we need proper consultation on the future of Lansdowne Park:
- City debt and the sale of air rights. staff were tasked with a Herculean task to come back with a plan for the $332.6M project that would be “revenue neutral”. This project will require the city taking on over $500 million in debt and interest payments over 40 years. This is a significant amount of money, and part of it will be paid for by selling-off of a highly-valuable city asset, the air rights along the south side of Exhibition Way.
- The loss of millions in property taxes: but selling air rights won’t cover the entire cost of the project. To pay for the rest of it, staff have proposed devoting 90% of the estimated property tax revenue from the proposed development to the debt servicing fees. But condos don’t pay property taxes, people do. The residents living at Lansdowne will still require city services—water and sewer, transit, libraries, etc.—yet only 10% of their property taxes will help fund these services. And, of course, the Lansdowne re-development will not create new city residents, just change where people are living, so the development won’t create any new taxpayers to pay for this project.
- Prioritizing private profit before public benefit: the impetus behind this project is to create a new event centre and new north side stands, and, consequently, the staff report focuses on these projects, as well as the proposed towers that we hope will pay for the project, however, there is insufficient discussion regarding much-needed improvements to the public realm that would offer significant benefits to residents visiting the site. We need a plan that benefits both private corporations and the residents of Ottawa.
- The loss of 58 000 square feet of public green space: the new event centre is proposed for the east end of the stadium, and it would encroach on the berm and Great Lawn by 50 meters. The event centre would be sunken with a green roof, but the roof would be inaccessible, taking away a significant portion of greenspace for residents to use.
- Forty-storey towers proposed in an area without proper LRT or BRT connections: the three proposed towers would reach heights exceeding 30 and 40 storeys, with a total of 1200 units. These are figures that would normally be associated with Transit-Oriented Development, but Lansdowne Park does not have an LRT stop and Bank Street does not have Bus Rapid Transit.
- The legal risks: the first Lansdowne rejuvenation project led to multiple legal challenges, settlements and binding agreements. Forty-storey towers would almost certainly violate these agreements. Before we make these plans, we need to make sure we have the legal right to follow through with them.
- Lack of proper transportation network improvements: the addition of 1200 residential units and the desire for additional events coming to Lansdowne would put significant pressure on the local transportation network that already consistently fails to service Lansdowne properly. With additional parking, we will see more and more people drive to the site, yet Bank Street and the surrounding streets cannot handle this increase. Any development of such degree must be accompanied by a proper transportation plan that will help shift the modal share away from private automobiles to sustainable transportation, especially public transit.
- No action on motor vehicle traffic around Aberdeen Square: the Aberdeen Pavillion is the heart of Lansdowne Park, and Aberdeen Square is the main pedestrian gathering place. Currently, traffic binds Aberdeen Square on three sides, often using the square for parking. This makes the square less accessible, less attractive, less comfortable and less safe for pedestrians. A rejuvenated Lansdowne Park should eliminate cut-through traffic around Aberdeen Square, while maintaining emergency and delivery vehicle access.
- The proposed affordable housing isn’t affordable housing: last year, council asked staff to include affordable housing in the proposal. Due to financial constraints, the staff report proposed 10% of units in the proposed towers be priced at “Average Market Rents”. Such a standard would not meet the standard definition of affordable: monthly rent would not exceed 30% of the gross income for those in the lowest 30% of income distribution.
- We’ve made these mistakes before: the original Lansdowne rejuvenation project was supposed to pay for itself…in fact, it was supposed turn a profit for the city. Sadly, both the city and OSEG had to spend more money than expected, and we never saw the profits we were promised. Without transparency and input from the public, we’re liable to make the same mistakes we made a decade ago, and that’s not acceptable. If we’re going to do this, we need to do it right this time…and that begins with full, robust public consultation.