Well shut my mouth about what I said yesterday, about the Ottawa Citizen trying to kill Lansdowne Live. This morning, they've done a complete about-face, and in grand fashion. It appears the mayor is now fully on board with Lansdowne Live, although it's the same reporter that sent me reeling earlier in the week with claims that Melnyk had won. Let's hope he checked his facts this time. I'm probably going to have to see a therapist to deal with all the beating my emotions have taken over the course of this week.
Lansdowne's time is now
City-building can be a technical and sometimes tedious endeavour.
The Ottawa Citizen
April 18, 2009 4:02 AM
[i]Debates involving terms like "infrastructure" and "density targets", while fun for the experts, are not always going to engage the public.
But every so often an issue becomes so clear that even the non-expert will instantly grasp the problem and recognize the solution. The inexcusable neglect of Lansdowne Park, and the urgency of its revitalization, is one of them. You don't need to be an urban theorist to see that a mostly abandoned sea of asphalt in the city centre is both an aesthetic crime and a planning one.
One year ago a group of Ottawa's most successful businessmen stepped forward with a proposal to resurrect Lansdowne, a proposal that would not only save Lansdowne from becoming a major public safety concern -- the place is truly falling apart -- but would transform the entire city in precisely the ways urban planners demand.
A resurrected Lansdowne would have more people living, working and playing in the urban core. The site would be a model of "smart growth" -- walkable spaces, recreational facilities, mixed-use development (retail, office, residential).
The national capital region has long been crippled by expensive, inefficient sprawl. But if you want a symbol of Ottawa's sprawl, don't just look at McMansions in the 'burbs. Look at today's Lansdowne Park, and consider the message it has been sending all these years. This crumbling, under-used expanse of real estate along the Rideau Canal diminishes the value of city living.
The Lansdowne Live team, as the developers call themselves, have a plan that would bring people into the city rather than drive them out. Yet the forces of inertia, and defenders of the status quo, seem determined to prevent this from happening. The Lansdowne Live developers are, understandably, increasingly frustrated, and they will not wait around forever for city officials to overcome their usual paralysis and embrace a new vision.
It can't be easy being an entrepreneur in a government town. The civic culture in Ottawa is conservative and hyper-cautious. Because so many of us are public sector workers, who by temperament are more preoccupied with process than product, we can be suspicious of businesspeople who not only have big ideas but actually want to implement them. The fact that the Lansdowne developers stand to profit in the long term from a reborn park is almost considered a strike against them.
Taxpayers of course have a right to insist that financial partnerships with the private sector are transparent and in the interest of the city. Indeed the exact numbers regarding Lansdowne Live have been the subject of a healthy debate. Currently the city is spending -- or, more accurately, wasting -- millions of dollars per year just to maintain the sinkhole at Lansdowne. Will that same expenditure cover a mortgage to restore the stadium, which is what the Lansdowne Live team is asking the city to do? If not, how much more will it cost taxpayers to get the stadium up and running, so that the developers can do the rest?
While these are legitimate questions, it's unproductive to challenge the bona fides or good faith of the Lansdowne Live crew. [b]The group has deep roots in Ottawa, going back generations, and their desire to fix the monstrosity that is today's Lansdowne Park is just the latest expression of community leadership.
The city should embrace their efforts, not obstruct them.[/b]
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen[/i]
A stadium fit for[url=http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Sports/stadium/1508968/story.html]http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Sports/sta ... story.html[/url]
By Richard Starnes, The Ottawa Citizen
April 18, 2009 4:04 AM
Roger Greenberg says it all started with four guys wanting to bring the CFL back to Ottawa.
It's clear Greenberg, Jeff Hunt, Bill Shenkman and John Ruddy could envisage the thrill of crowds streaming across Bank Street Bridge again to fill the city's venerable Frank Clair Stadium.
Back then, Greenberg said Friday, they had no idea how crumbly the stadium was.
But, as they plowed along, they took such challenges in stride, building a development strategy that could work for themselves and for their city: Lansdowne Live.
Eugene Melnyk then stepped out of the blue with a proposal for a soccer specific stadium adjacent to his Scotiabank Place. To area soccer fans, it was an exciting, ambitious plan to bring Major League Soccer to the city.
Right then, from a public perspective, it become a sporting battle as much as a stadium decision.
The CFL is as Canadian as the maple leaf and its historic association with Ottawa remains powerful -- even if it has come and gone twice before. Jeff Hunt has made a remarkable success out of his '67s junior hockey club and they are convinced they can bring back the fans.
Soccer's grassroots have a massive hold in the region, with 60,000 active players. Melnyk's Senators Sports and Entertainment organization has proved itself one of hockey's most successful clubs.
Both groups know how to run a sports franchise.
But Greenberg is adamant that sports are only a small part of the discussion.
"This is not a soccer versus football debate," he said. "It's about an open air stadium and its location."
He is almost certainly right, but Ottawa's sports fans are too rabid to let it be. CFL devotees want their beloved game back. Soccer fans salivate over the prospect of the best professional soccer North America has to offer coming to town.
That's why there has been so much speculation over this city's professional sporting future. It's hard not to get excited about the prospect of three major professional franchises in a city our size. It would be something about which to be justifiably proud.
Greensberg's Lansdowne Live band know exactly which tunes they want to play and they are eager to set the record straight on the sports side of the debate.
First, let's talk about the provisional CFL franchise the group has been granted. It has been suggested that Eugene Melnyk might want to take it over should his stadium be the one council decides to support.
Not only is the man almost certainly not interested, but Lansdowne Live couldn't pass it on to anyone, even if it wanted to.
"This has been award to us. We either go forward or we don't," Greenberg said. "It doesn't have an assignability clause.
"If we drop it and Mr. Melnyk wants to apply to the CFL, I'm sure they would be happy to consider him, or somebody else."
The franchise is CFL property and, should Lansdowne Live withdraw, it is up to the CFL to decide on any other prospective customers.
If council opts to go for a renovated Frank Clair Stadium, Greenberg has a surprising answer on the football or soccer debate.
"We are prepared to make it a soccer-first stadium," he said.
Now, before all you soccer fans start to cheer, he does not mean Lansdowne Live will be seeking any pro franchise -- be it MLS or USL (the United Soccer League in which Montreal and Vancouver play).
The group has asked the CFL if turf that is acceptable to MLS would be acceptable to the CFL. The answer? Yes.
They have also asked CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon if it would be acceptable to grant an MLS franchise the first kick at game dates. That's up to you if that's what you want to do, was the answer.
"So that makes this a soccer-first stadium," Greenberg said. "We can say publicly we are prepared to grant that to an MLS soccer franchise.
"The short answer is we would do everything we can to encourage a third party to come and play soccer at Frank Clair Stadium."
But that will not be the Lansdowne Live guys. "The work we would already have is massive," he said. "Do you remember the movie A Bridge Too Far? Trying too much is a recipe for disaster.
"We will pursue someone as a tenant. We have not made any application to anyone. If somebody got a USL franchise and there was no MLS in the city and they wanted to come and talk to us as managers of Frank Clair, of course we would listen to them."
So now we have that clear. We may know a little more after Monday, when the public -- and the two stadium proponents -- air their views. Then it's on to Wednesday's full council meeting and the prospect of a decision.
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen[/i]
Melnyk punts plan for dual-sport stadium
Mayor now putting full support behind developers' proposal to rebuild Frank Clair
By Randall Denley, The Ottawa Citizen
April 18, 2009 4:02 AM
[i]The idea of a dual-purpose football and soccer stadium in Kanata is dead. Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk won't agree to a deal that would have offered two professional sports teams at Melnyk's proposed stadium, Mayor Larry O'Brien said Friday.
"There was a lot of hard work done by a lot of people to try to find a compromise that included a dual-function stadium, but unfortunately, we were not able to reach an agreement," O'Brien said.
The failure of the compromise "wasn't anyone's fault," the mayor said. Melnyk said the two-sport proposal strayed too far from his original business plan for a soccer franchise.
The mayor lobbied hard for a week for a plan that would have rebuilt the Civic Centre as the key element of Lansdowne Park, eliminated Frank Clair Stadium and put both pro sports in Kanata. With that off the table, O'Brien says he's putting his full support behind a group of local developers' original plan to rebuild Frank Clair as the home for a CFL team.
Melnyk's group will still make a pitch for its soccer proposal at a city committee Monday, but councillors have expressed limited interest in the plan and city staff rated it as less attractive than the Lansdowne Live proposal put forward by Minto Group CEO Roger Greenberg and his partners.
With Melnyk refusing to accept the compromise that could have made his soccer plan a reality, councillors' focus will now be on fixing Lansdowne Park.
There is council and public support for accepting half the compromise plan that would have created a new stadium for pro sports in Kanata. That would involve tearing down the stadium and rebuilding the Civic Centre with the money the city would have spent anyway maintaining the site's aging buildings. This plan would also add consumer show space, green space, restaurants and shops. That would be an improvement on what we have today, but is half the compromise deal better than the original plan put forward by the Lansdowne Live group?
The mayor's idea that the Civic Centre could be rejuvenated for $25 million is a bit optimistic. The figure he cites is too much for a renovation, but not enough for a new building. A new Civic Centre and expanded consumer show space would cost roughly $100 million, by the time demolition of the stadium and existing Civic Centre are taken into account.
For the same expenditure, the Lansdowne Live group says it can give us a rebuilt stadium and Civic Centre. City staff and their consultants have put that cost at $125 million, but Greenberg says that's based on the assumption that public sector projects inflate in price. He's confident his group can control costs. If councillors are concerned, it won't be difficult to get an agreement that puts a fixed cost on the project.
Both versions of the Lansdowne plan offer the public considerable value at a similar cost. Councillors were shocked when they heard the price, but they can use the money the city is spending maintaining the old buildings and the new property tax dollars from commercial development to pay for either plan. That would be a much wiser investment of public dollars.
The big difference between the two alternatives is obviously the stadium. If Ottawa chooses not to have one, it will eliminate our ability to stage any major sporting event or big outdoor concert. That would make us unique among major Canadian cities, but not in a good way.
Councillors could keep pondering the possibility of building a stadium years from now on some arguably better site, but nothing will come of it.
They have a credible local group that's willing to rebuild Lansdowne Park, add football and manage the site, all for minimal incremental cost to the city. It's not a deal that we're likely to see twice and it still leaves open the possibility for an international design competition to maximize the part of the site closest to the canal.
Next week's decision on Lansdowne Park is one of the most important that city councillors will make. They can determine the future of what is arguably the city's most significant public property and the changes they are contemplating will determine its use for decades to come. Unfortunately, we are never going to get consensus on Lansdowne. There are simply too many variations on what could be done.
The Lansdowne Live plan is not perfect, but it will make Lansdowne far better than it is today without a great cost to the public and there is plenty of flexibility to make the idea even better. On balance, it's the best offer the city has and the best it's likely to get.
Contact Randall Denley at 613-596-3756 or by e-mail,firstname.lastname@example.org
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen[/i]