Councillor Comments on Lansdowne 2.0 Procurement Options Report

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This is a disappointing report that has come to council. 

It’s a bit strange to read all the work that went into the consultant’s report only to be dismissed so that we could just do things the way we’ve always done them. 

And we’re abandoning the notion of a competitive bidding process, sole-sourcing the project to an architectural firm that the city did not even select in the first place. 

And despite the fact that sole-sourcing a major project never leads to the best outcome, we’re hoping this time it will mean that a procurement method that finished a distant sixth in scoring can be elevated to a semi-distant fourth, in relation to all the other procurement methods we could have chosen. This report comes without any input or consultation of the public who will be paying for it.

So disappointing is the word, but maybe not the right word. Maybe it’s too charitable. 

When it comes to Lansdowne Park, when we listen to the public, good things happen…and it brings people together—like the new inexpensive benches, patio umbrellas and planters finally being installed at our urging in Ottawa’s public Square, Aberdeen Square. For that project, we consulted and listened to the public—and thank you to our parks staff, this is what will bring people to come and stay at Lansdowne: small but impactful quality-of-life improvements.

For Lansdowne 2.0 and this report, we haven’t listened to the public and to sports fans who have written to us. This project will make Lansdowne Park worse.

  • The Civic Centre has been regularly sold out. That means 10,000 fans for 67’s games, PWHL games and special events. Building a new arena that has half of that capacity is absolutely ridiculous.
  • The RedBlacks have regularly sold-out games in their brief history. In response, we’re reducing the number of seats at Frank Clair Stadium and increasing ticket prices while removing the roof over peoples heads.
  • When a rebuild was contemplated, no one said that the entire civic centre would be moved—removing 58,000 square feet of precious and loved greenspace in the core—while we spend taxpayer dollars to fight with lawyers in court to preserve golf course greenspace in Kanata.
  • I would challenge any of my colleagues in this room to tell me how much the city is actually projecting to lose in operations dollars for the new events centre and stadium: it’s $164.9M, and that’s the most optimistic projection.
  • Another $20 million in this report for a so called “line-of-credit” that the city will have to backstop. Staff have now confirmed: this really isn’t going to be paid back; it’s going to be more long-term debt and it’s something the original LPP did not allow.
  • That’s not to mention the waste this represents—after the city invested heavily in the last decade building brand new retail that is set to be torn down. The city recently invested $23 million into the steel roof, also set to be torn down with us continuing to pay down a loan for a facility that doesn’t exist. And, of course, the value of the building at $130 million, which would be torn down. All of this not because the buildings are at end-of-life, but because the city wants to make Lansdowne financially sustainable.

Well guess what: this isn’t a financially-sustainable plan. Over $500 million in new debt payments isn’t financially sustainable. Saying the teams will only be guaranteed to stay here for another eight years to 2032 isn’t sustainable.

So, what’s it going to take for this Council to change course? What’s another $4 million here and there, another $20 million long-term loan, the same old procurement model after a full-scale LRT public inquiry?

For years, legions of residents tried to tell this city what was needed at Lansdowne, and what was missing from the plans. But they haven’t been listened to. In November, our office tried to help make improvements to the plan so that it would actually give our residents what they needed. We brought motion after motion to improve this plan:

  • A green roof on the event centre
  • A roof over the North side stands
  • Enhancing transit and active transportation options to the site
  • Marginally increasing spending on public realm enhancements in the park 
  • Preserving more greenspace and not waiving our cash-in-lieu of parks policy
  • Requiring not-for-profit housing on site
  • Providing a higher amount of revenue from the deal to our capital budget for affordable housing 
  • Favouring bids that propose rental housing when that’s the kind of housing supply we need 
  • Limiting parking on the surface of the site, while adding new accessible parking

We know that Lansdowne 2.0 isn’t the only option. But we’re never given that choice. We’re never given an alternative to the failed P3 model, unimaginative designs, and expensive procurement models. 

This historic site deserves better than that.

As we hit future decision points or “gates” for this file, we should be looking for ways to make this redevelopment more in-line with community feedback and the public good. That’s what my team’s Better Lansdowne campaign attempted to do, and that’s what I will continue to do as the local representative. 

Ultimately, this report represents another checkpoint for a project I opposed at council last year; one that continues to fall short. This report also brings with it additional financial risks and offers a sole-source procurement option that I am not convinced will deliver the public the best results. It is for these reasons that I will be voting against the report today. 

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