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The Lansdowne 2.0 proposal is an incredibly substantial plan that will radically change Lansdowne Park, the surrounding community and the city, as a whole. It requires significant spending and debt—a financial decision that must be weighed against Council’s strategic priorities. Any decisions regarding the future of Lansdowne Park must be taken with due care, ensuring that we shed past mistakes and take a sober, honest look at the impacts of the plan.
If we are not careful, we will repeat the errors of the last re-development of Lansdowne Park, embarking on another rejuvenation project based on faulty premises which did not come to pass.
For the sake of our city’s future, we can’t afford to bungle this matter.
Last decade’s original Lansdowne re-development project offered promises of a vibrant urban village, bustling retail and commercial spaces, and significant profits flowing from a financial waterfall. We are considering Lansdowne 2.0 now largely because these assurances did not come to pass.
There have been successes, with residents utilizing the park, but, too often, the space is under-used, and, to the dismay of everyone in or around Lansdowne, when it is alive with visitors, the associated traffic chokes off the neighbourhood’s traditional main street, Bank Street.
A rejuvenation of Lansdowne Park is needed, but what is needed is a plan that prioritizes public amenities, public access and the public good to make it a success. The initial Lansdowne 2.0 plan was unlikely to accomplish this given it was based on a proposal authored without public input. That initial plan has since seen modifications, some of which followed our advice from BetterLansdowne.ca and as a result of feedback from the public, urban design professionals, and from Councillors offices. Some of these changes are positive and as a result, we have a better proposal before us now than we did in 2022. As it stands, however, this report still falls short of meeting the priorities referenced above.
The impetus for re-developing Lansdowne Park is to re-construct the stadium’s north side stands and the arena underneath—facilities residents were told did not require imminent replacement during the original re-development of Lansdowne; facilities that we are still told could be maintained for another three decades with normal maintenance and upgrades.
That the stands can remain in place until 2054 does not, in and of itself, mean that they must remain for another 31 years. Re-development could be justifiable, but only if it brings commensurate benefits to the city as a whole.
This has been a troubled proposal since it was initially pondered. Originally, the plan was to be revenue neutral, but no such plan was ever actually conceivable. Originally, the city was to consult with the public before bringing the initial proposal to council, but no such consultations occurred last term. Originally there was to be no amendment to the Official Plan as directed by Council, but that was reversed without Council authority. Originally, there was to be a component of affordable housing included in the proposal, but that was cast aside for something referred to as market-affordable housing (up to 135 per cent of market rents, as though the market had not already had a hand in creating the current affordability crisis). Originally, there was to be a transportation plan included as part of Lansdowne 2.0, but no such plan exists, though residents regularly sit in traffic waiting to get to a soccer game or the Farmers Market.
All of these directives were decided by council, and none came to fruition. There can be no doubt as to why residents remain skeptical.