Lansdowne 2.0 plan in serious trouble
A proposed new redevelopment of Lansdowne Park could be in real trouble
In all the recent excitement around here, we missed an important birthday. About two weeks ago, the Lookout turned two. It’s hard to believe that when we started this newsletter, it would be going as strong as it is two years later, but here we are.
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Now, let’s get to it.
— Robert Hiltz, managing editor
Friday: 18🌡️ 16 | 🌧
Saturday: 17 🌡️ 1 | 🌦
Sunday: 7 🌡️ 2 | 🌧
Monday: 8 🌡️ -3 | 🌧
Lansdowne redevelopment plan could be in trouble
City of Ottawa/Handout
What happened: Opposition from councillors is growing in advance of next week’s vote on the Lansdowne re-redevelopment. Councillors David Brown and Jessica Bradley publicly announced their opposition to the plan to rebuild the north side stands, add two condo towers, and build a new arena. The new plan would cost the city an estimated $419 million, a city report said.
“Public dollars should go toward public services and infrastructure, not into private pockets. I am entirely opposed to the Lansdowne 2.0 plan and will be encouraging my colleagues on council to consider a new plan for the site,” Brown wrote in the Manotick Messenger.
Possible vote breakdown: The plan is coming up for a vote next Thursday, at a special joint meeting of the finance and housing committees. Ken Gray of the Bulldog Ottawa writes that the joint committee seems to be breaking down on a line of only seven yes votes to 10 no votes. The whole council could still vote on the plan afterward, but Lansdowne 2.0 would be in serious jeopardy if it couldn’t get the approval of committee members.
Adding some plausibility to this, Gray has a copy of an email sent to supporters of ReImagine Ottawa (a public group that opposes the development), that encourages its members to call the offices of councillors and the mayor broken down into three groups:
Five councillors to encourage a no vote (those who might be sitting on the fence);
Five councillors and the mayor to ask to change their votes (those for the plan);
Six councillors who should be thanked for their no vote (those against).
Watson’s legacy: The new redevelopment plan was presented to the previous council as a fait acompli, and was written up by the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which operates the stadium and teams that play at Lansdowne. The all-or-nothing proposition passed the last council not long before the election campaign kicked off.
Bad deal: The city owns Lansdowne, but the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) operates the site. When it was redeveloped the first time in the 2010s, the city set up a convoluted financial agreement where money eventually waterfalls its way into the public purse, but only after OSEG gets its share. The first redevelopment, which went into effect in 2012, is only expected to pay out $270.6 million over 40 years. None of that money will go to the city.
The risks of no: Supporters of the current plan, which includes the city bureaucracy, warn that turning down the redevelopment could kill Lansdowne and see the departure of the teams that play there.
Thought bubble: But the initial Lansdowne development has turned into such a debacle, that that sort of threat may not be enough. It’s a steeper climb for council to get behind the same group of people saying they have Lansdowne figured out this time, they just need another massive infusion of public money to make things work.
The current Lansdowne is a money-losing proposition. This, to the city’s top bureaucrat Wendy Stephanson, makes the case for throwing good money after bad.
“I think this just underpins the report that is going forward for Lansdowne with respect to what the future looks like and making something that is sustainable.… It really supports the new model that we're putting in front of council,” she said according to CBC.
What it all means: The Watson-era Lansdowne redevelopment was based on overly optimistic financial projections that have fallen disastrously short. If another lengthy redevelopment of Lansdowne is necessary, then this time it should be a full open process where council, and by extension the city, is presented with real options to choose from. What’s in front of us is a plan the current, failing operators want to force through saying they alone can fix it. As the saying goes, fool us once, shame on you; fool us twice…
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🚫 41: The number of games Senators forward Shane Pinto was suspended by the league for activities related to gambling. There weren’t many details given, but the league said Pinto did not himself bet on NHL games. [CBC]
COST OF LIVING
Another record year at the Food Bank (bad)
What happened: The cost of living crisis is now so bad the Ottawa Food Bank said it is seeing the most visits the organization has ever seen, CTV reported. Since last year, demand has increased 22 percent. This year, they’ve had more than 490,000 visits.
“The last time that we saw a spike was in the 2008 recession and this well outpaced that,” Food Bank CEO Rachael Wilson told CTV.
Wider trend: In March alone, there were two million food bank visits across the country, that’s an increase of 32 percent over the year before. Food Banks Canada said about a third of their clients are children.
CEO theatre: A House of Commons committee will once again haul grocery CEOs to Ottawa to answer questions next week about what they’ve done to stabilize food prices, CTV reported. Other than dealing a verbal flogging, it’s not clear what plans the government has to force them to drop prices.
⚖️ Ottawa police Const. Yourik Briesbois pleaded guilty to discreditable conduct for threatening to kill his ex while holding a knife. Briesbois worked in the intimate partner violence unit for four years. He remains on the force. Both the defence and prosecution want him to be sentenced to a two-year demotion. He was previously convicted of criminal charges and given a conditional discharge. [CBC]
📻 Rogers abruptly announced 1310 CityNews Ottawa would shut down. On-air personalities and producers were told Tuesday morning they were out of a job that day. The company will continue to run the site’s local news website. [Ottawa Business Journal]
🔌 With extreme weather becoming more and more common, Hydro Ottawa said long outages will continue to plague the city. The utility’s CEO said he would do what he could to improve infrastructure, but “at the end of the day, the homeowner has to be prepared to go two to three days without power.” [CTV]
🚓 ByWard Market merchants who pushed hard for a permanent police presence in the district are disappointed the force chose a location on the edge at the Rideau Centre, rather than something more central in the market. The merchants say they weren’t consulted on the outpost’s location. [CBC]
🏗️ The city is looking to find ways to make it easier to turn office buildings into homes, particularly as the federal government looks to abandon several of its downtown office towers. [CBC]
🚚 The defence team in the convoy organizer trial wants access to internal police communications. Police heavily redacted the communications, citing solicitor-client privilege. [The Canadian Press]
What to do this weekend
🍬 Toddlers’ Halloween Hunt, Friday 9 am: A costume and trick or treat party for young ones at the Diefenbunker with plenty of Halloween surprises. At 3929 Carp Rd. $12 for adults, kids under five get in free.
👻 Halloween Heist, Saturday and Sunday: A ghoul has gone and stolen all the treats at the Billings’ Museum. Come in costume for a fun self-guided adventure with plenty of games along the way. At 2100 Cabot St. $25 per family.
🎃 Lansdowne Park Pumpkin Derby, Sunday 6 am: With a pumpkin race, glitter tattoos, a play zone, inflatables and more. Come out and celebrate the season. At the Aberdeen Pavilion. Free.
📽️ Hull Underground Film Festival, Saturday 6:30 pm: A festival of short films from local filmmakers and more. Costumes are encouraged. At DAÏMÔN, 78 Rue Hanson, Gatineau. Donation recommended.
💀 Day of the Dead Festival, Friday to Sunday: Celebrate Mexican culture with food, music, activities and more. At 55 ByWard Market Sq. Free.
🎙️ Jessica Rhaye & The Ramshackle Parade with Dennis Ellsworth, Friday 8 pm: A night of great acoustic Americana. At Red Bird, 1165 Bank St. Tickets $28.
🎶 The Mummy - a new opera by Andrew Ager, Friday and Saturday: A timeless tale of love and vengeance, fully staged and with a musical ensemble. At St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, 82 Kent St. Tickets $28.
This week in food
🇱🇧 Pressed for time, and looking for a quality shawarma? Check out this St. Laurent restaurant for great value and flavour.
🍾 One local brewer has a brut, champagne-style beer you’ll want to pick up as a gift — and probably for yourself, too.
🍷 (Insiders) This rosé from the birthplace of wine in the Caucuses is one that pairs perfectly with Thai food.
🍽️ (Insiders) In Gatineau there is a wine bar and bistro that sets a high bar for the experience of both dining and drinking. Our editor can’t stop raving about it!
Next week, Laurier will be closed to vehicles between Bronson and Bay for construction work. [City of Ottawa]
Discover Important, Not Important: A weekly science newsletter about the most pressing issues facing our existence (clean energy, AI, biotech, food, etc.). Sign up with 1-click here or subscribe on their site. [Sponsored*]
A flock of 44 sheep safely returned after a day on the run. It wasn’t clear how they got out in the first place. [CBC]
The Haudenosaunee smoke dance display of carved artificial pumpkins is a delightful spectacle at Upper Canada Village. [CBC]
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André Martin/Ottawa Lookout Reader
Today’s fall photo was taken by reader André Martin, who snapped this autumnal shot of an Osgoode home with a drone.
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Congrats to Adam, Gord, Nick, Madeleine, Michael, Julia and many more who knew this week’s Ottawa Guesser was at the corner of Somerset and Booth.
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