City manager given authority to execute Lansdowne deals

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By Alex Boutilier, Metro

Ottawa's finance committee signed off on expanding the city manager's authority to execute parts of the Lansdowne Park redevelopment project with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group Tuesday.

If approved by council, the move would grant City Manager Kent Kirkpatrick the authority to give the city's consent for requests from OSEG within the parametres of the legal and financial agreements approved by council last year.

Kirkpatrick said the move was necessary, given the tight timelines for the project.

The first project on Kirkpatrick's plate will be the construction of retail and office buildings. Minto, whose CEO sits on OSEG's board, has been recommended for the project.

Lansdowne urban park price tag estimated at $20m-$25m

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By Alex Boutilier, Metro

The City of Ottawa is expecting to pay $20 million to $25 million for an urban park at Lansdowne, according to tender documents.

That estimate includes all components of the park, including two major public art installations, a refrigerated skating rink, a new skateboard park, and a "great lawn" on the park's southeast corner.

Jeff Byrne, the head of the city's supply branch, said the price tag is an estimate only. The contract will be awarded to the lowest responsive bid.

The city announced four companies had prequalified to bid on the multi-million dollar contract last week. The city went the pre-qualification route, Byrne said, due to the size, complexity and timelines associated with the project.

"The Lansdowne redevelopment includes multiple project components, underway concurrently and with extremely tight timelines and therefore this pre-qualification process was deemed appropriate," Byrne wrote in an email.

The successful contractor will have incentives to meet that aggressive timeline. If all work on the northeastern section of the park is completed by May 30, 2014, the contractor gets a $60,000 bonus. If work on the southern section is completed by October 31 later that year, the contractor is eligible for an additional $40,000.

If deadlines are missed the contractor could be slapped with up to $100,000 in "disincentives" fees, depending on how long the delay lasts.

The tender documents are in the hands of the contractors, but will not be made public until June 10. Final completion of the contract is set for May 2015.

Prequalified bidders for the Lansdowne urban park:

  • Carillion Canada Inc. — Concord, Ontario
  • D&G Landscaping — Greely, Ontario
  • Doran Contractors — Ottawa, Ontario
  • Ottawa Greenbelt Construction Co. Ltd. — Ottawa, Ontario

City staff ask for more authority in Lansdowne approvals

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By Alex Boutilier, Metro

Given tight timelines for the construction of Lansdowne Park, Ottawa's city manager is looking for more authority to execute deals with Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group.

The authority, if approved, would give City Manager Kent Kirkpatrick the ability to directly sign off on matters relating to the Lansdowne Partnership Plan.

In a report due before the city's finance and economic development committee Tuesday, staff note the authority would only extend to provisions already contained within the legal agreement between the city and OSEG. Any proposed changes to that agreement would still require committee and council approval.

That same report indicates construction at the Lansdowne Park redevelopment is as scheduled and on budget. The report also recommends Minto Communities construct retail sections under its residential buildings, as well as the office building.

"OSEG notes that it is preferable from cost, engineering, construction and warranty perspectives to have one contractor instead of two different contractors build these portions of the retail base buildings and the residential and office buildings above them," the report states. "Minto would earn a fee for the construction of these retail base buildings but the city has received assurances from Minto that the fee being earned is at or below current market rates for equivalent services."

Minto's CEO, Roger Greenberg, is a partner at OSEG. The city's finance and economic development committee is scheduled to discuss the matter Tuesday morning.

Lansdowne Park: A study in exceptions to the rule

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By Steve Collins, Metro Ottawa

It will bring little joy to long-suffering neighbours, but granting construction crews at Lansdowne Park an exemption from noise bylaws, allowing work to continue around the clock when needed, fits a well-established pattern. The park's redevelopment has been a study in exceptions, advice rejected and rules bent.

The cancellation of a competitive bid process in favour of a sole-sourced deal with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group set the tone — and fuelled lawsuits from Friends of Lansdowne, a residents' group opposed to the redevelopment, and the Lansdowne Park Conservancy, whose competing proposal would have kept the park in public hands but didn't get a serious look.

Friends of Lansdowne, for their part, were threatened with a change in policy that would allow the city to go after the citizens' association for legal costs. Last year, city lawyers grew impatient with the court's deliberations in the case and wrote a rather unusual letter asking when a decision might be expected.

Time and again, city officials have pleaded the urgency of the redevelopment and looming deadlines to justify cutting the odd procedural corner. Often, those deadlines seemed largely self-inflicted.

Take the snap vote council took to authorize $400,000 for a bid on two FIFA events, the under-20 Women's World Cup in 2014 and the Women's World Cup in 2015. Impending deadlines, we were told, meant the money was needed right away, and once the bids went ahead, we'd need the new venue in which to host them, stat.

The benefits of hosting such major-league events aren't seriously in doubt, but booking them into a nonexistent stadium? Possibly a bit rash.

As events shook out, the under-20 World Cup won't take place here in 2014, so now the replacement exigency is the need to have everything in place for North American Soccer League and Canadian Football League teams next year.

Next year will also, incidentally, be an election year, which might be the best explanation for all the hustle.

Lansdowne's Horticulture Building, which will turn 100 in 2014, stood in the way of planned retail space and underground parking. So we uprooted and relocated it in a rather impressive feat of engineering that nonetheless contravened the advice of the city's heritage advisory committee and the provincial Conservation Review Board, who were of the staid opinion that the historic building should stay in its historic location. Terribly sorry, exceptional circumstances, etc.

The question, after all these exceptions, is whether we'll end up with something truly exceptional at Lansdowne Park. The city and OSEG and the sun-dappled conceptual drawings assure us we will.