Lansdowne's urban park overshot budget by 23%

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Rush to make site safe by opening day led to extra costs, city says

The city was responsible for creating the seven-hectare urban park at Lansdowne during redevelopment, which included work on the Aberdeen Pavilion and creating the surrounding courtyards and public areas. (Kate Porter/CBC)

By Kate Porter, CBC News

The City of Ottawa overshot the authorized spending target for the urban park portion of the Lansdowne redevelopment by 10 per cent, or 23 per cent more than the budget originally allocated for the city-built portion of the project.

While Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group led the redevelopment of the stadium and retail areas, the city was fully responsible for the seven-hectare urban park.

The city's original budget for renovating and relocating the Horticulture Building, renovating the Aberdeen Pavilion, and creating the playground, skate park, great lawn and public squares was $37.5 million.

With contingencies accounted for, staff had $42.5 million to work with.

But at a meeting of the city's finance and economic development committee Tuesday, Marco Manconi, the city manager responsible for Lansdowne's design and construction, said staff used up that contingency funding and needed an extra $3.7 million, taking total costs for the urban cost to $46.2 million.

So in total, costs increased by 23 per cent over the original budget for the urban park.

Festival transit bill part of Lansdowne deal, says OC Transpo

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Ottawa Asian Fest organizers are scrambling to cover up to $18,000 in transit costs, but OC Transpo says it's always been that way.

Emma Jackson, Metro

Asian Fest organizers knew from the start they’d have to pay for extra transit, OC Transpo officials said Tuesday.

Simon Huang, program co-ordinator for the Ottawa Asian Fest at Lansdowne Park, said Monday that organizers were surprised two weeks ago by “an unbearable cost” for extra buses to its event June 17-19.

The "ballpark figure" is $18,000 – nearly a third of the festival's $65,000 budget. The board of directors will eat the cost, Huang said.

But OC Transpo’s Pat Scrimgeour said that was the deal all along: since Lansdowne opened, any event that attracts more than 5,000 people has to cover any extra transit OC Transpo provides.

"We’re just applying the same rules," Scrimgeour said.

For concerts and sporting events, transit is built right into the tickets, and holders get free rides to and from the park.

But Asian Fest is free.

"It kind of seems like OC Transpo is double charging," Huang said.

Scrimgeour said it’s up to organizers “to decide how they cover the costs of all aspects of their event.”

Outside of Lansdowne, major festivals don’t seem particularly worried about an unexpected bill.

Holly Tarrison, executive director for HOPE Volleyball Summerfest at Mooney’s Bay, said her group charters private shuttles.

“We don’t see there’s an increase in OC Transpo service for us,” she said.

Same goes for the Lebanese Festival, said spokesperson Ray Skaff.

And Greek Fest organizer Eleni Dellis said she hasn’t heard from the transit operator.

OC Transpo tried this year to recoup costs from the Canadian Tire Centre and Bluesfest, but of the $532,000 they wanted, only $100,000 was secured.

Transit fee part of holding events at Lansdowne, councillors say

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Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

Festival organizers will simply need to get used to paying a transit fee if they want to use the municipality's premier park.

"It's the cost of doing an event at Lansdowne Park," transit commission chair Stephen Blais said Wednesday.

"They have to pay for all the services they consume. This is to ensure the festival doesn't have a negative impact to things going on around it."

Asian Fest raised concerns this week because OC Transpo wants to charge up to $18,000 in extra transit services provided for the three-day event at Lansdowne this month. There is no admission price for visitors, so the festival would need to absorb the cost somehow.

Transpo is trying harder to recoup money it spends on providing enhanced bus service during special events.

Booking space at Lansdowne comes with a rule compelling organizers to pay a transit fee if there will be more than 5,000 people attending an event.

Transportation planning at Lansdowne has focused heavily on trying to convince people to leave their cars at home and consider other modes, such as public transit. Transpo wants to make sure it has the bus capacity for people choosing transit.

Capital Coun. David Chernushenko, whose ward includes Lansdowne, said festivals should be building the transit expense into their budgets.

"It's the cost of doing business anywhere, not just at Lansdowne," Chernushenko said.

'Free' money no reason for secrecy in city of Ottawa projects

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Better process needed for spelling out transparency in private-public deals

By Joanne Chianello, CBC News

Surprises are good for birthdays. For spending $1 million of public money to alter public land on a deal negotiated and approved in secret, not so much.

Last week's announcement that the city will hand over $1 million to a private company to build a 50,000 square-foot playground on a beloved waterfront without informing councillors, without consulting the community, with no public details available about the deal — and not even a single pretty picture to woo us — is another display of a lack of transparency at the halls of municipal power.  

Questions, questions

In January, Sinking Ship Entertainment approached the city to build Canada's largest playground at Mooney's Bay for its Giver TV program that airs on TVO. Using children and adult volunteers, the show has built more than 40 playgrounds. Ottawa's — which the company estimates will be worth $2 million — would be a salute to Canada and a 2017 legacy project.

In return, Sinking Ship wanted $1 million in public money, as well as complete secrecy while conducting negotiations, during which the company reportedly changed its mind once or twice about coming to Ottawa.

Because the city money comes from a parkland fund that is meant for city-wide projects, bureaucrats were able to approve the funding without going to council first. That a city manager could spend $1 million on a park without their approval came as a surprise to some city councillors — and likely not a few taxpayers.

There are many unanswered questions over this deal that was hatched in secret in less than five months.

What are the details of the financing? Does the city bear any fiscal responsibility if the project runs out of money part-way through? Who exactly are the other partners and how much are they donating? Giver is trying to crowdfund $150,000 for the project. As of Thursday afternoon, it had raised $770. What happens if it doesn't raise the $150,000?

What were the criteria for the site? Why did Britannia or Andrew Haydon parks not qualify?

What will the long-term costs be of maintaining this new playground, costs that will fall to city taxpayers?

Pedestrians biggest loser at Lansdowne

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Putting parking on the Bank Street bridge could calm traffic and make the road less hostile for pedestrians heading to Lansdowne.


Fifty-eight per cent of fans took sustainable transportation to RedBlacks games last year, but only a fraction of that was on foot.

By Emma Jackson, Metro

Pedestrians are losing out at Lansdowne Park, and fixing Bank Street bridge could be the solution, Coun. David Chernushenko said Wednesday.
A staff report found that more than half of all visitors took alternative transportation to major events like RedBlacks games and the AC/DC concert last year.

But only eight to 10 per cent of visitors walked there, something Chernushenko said could change if Bank Street’s famously hostile bridge was more comfortable for pedestrians and cyclists.

“That couple of hundred metres continues to be a problem,” he said, particularly in off-peak hours when speeds pick up.

The bad reputation could be sending potential visitors elsewhere, he said, or adding to the Glebe's on-street parking shortage if they choose to drive.

Chernushenko asked staff to consider new ways to calm the bridge to make it more hospitable. He particularly wanted to take the street down to two lanes from four in off-peak hours, even if that meant adding on-street parking.

That idea was immediately decried on Twitter by cycling advocates who argued a bike lane would do more to promote safety and sustainable modes than parking.

“As if (Bank) wasn’t bad enough, let’s take away the passing lane and add car doors,” tweeted one frustrated rider.
Traffic planning manager Phil Landry said bike lanes and wider sidewalks weren’t feasible last time the bridge was rebuilt, and the green super sharrows have only resulted in “minor behavioural changes.”
He said speed boards would remind drivers to go 40 km/h.
Chernushenko also raised concerns about pedestrian space inside Lansdowne itself. Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which runs TD Place inside Lansdowne, has been criticized for channelling cars through what many thought would be a more community-oriented space.  
Brian Mitchell from the Glebe Community Association said that’s a major concern for his residents, who are struggling with high on-street parking rates.
“It has proven to have a very car-centric design, which is quite disappointing for a centrally-located destination in 2016,” Mitchell said.

Labour council challenges proposal for holiday shopping

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Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

City council would be making “a significant and major mistake” by allowing Glebe shops to open on six holidays, says Sean McKenny, president of the Ottawa and District Labour Council.

The labour group plans to ask the mayor and councillors to block a staff recommendation to make shopping legal in the Glebe on some statutory holidays.

And the organization says it would consider an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board if city council approves the measure.

The Glebe BIA has asked the city’s permission for retailers to open New Year’s Day, Family Day, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day and Thanksgiving Day, plus any future holidays declared by the province.

Council’s finance and economic development committee is inviting residents to weigh in on the shopping proposal at a meeting Tuesday. City council is scheduled to vote on the committee’s decision Feb. 10.

McKenny argues those are days families want to be together rather than be scheduled to work.

“It’s incumbent upon our city council to ensure that we have that piece in play in our city,” McKenny said.

McKenny said he’s concerned city council will allow other retail districts to open on holidays if the Glebe BIA receives permission.

Lansdowne neighbours struggle with late-night noise, city's inaction

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Matthew Pearson, Ottawa Citizen

People who live near Lansdowne Park want the city to do a better job enforcing its own noise bylaw because loud music is keeping them up at night.

No one is supposed to operate amplifiers and speakers between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. if it disturbs the peace and comfort of people in their homes or businesses, according to Ottawa bylaw 2004-253.

But events at Lansdowne Park — particularly dance parties and wedding receptions in the Aberdeen Pavilion and Horticulture building — appear to be doing just that. And some residents say they’re fed up.

On Wednesday night, Michael Vickers says he could hear loud noise coming from an event inside the Aberdeen Pavilion after 11 p.m.

Although he has registered complaints on at least 10 previous occasions, he didn’t call bylaw this time because the response, he says, often seems skeptical.

“Nobody cares about the disruption that that’s causing,” said Vickers, who lives a few hundred metres north of Lansdowne’s Holmwood Street entrance. “The response we’ve had from bylaw officers and other people is, ‘You’re just these anti-Lansdowne people and you’re whining again.'”

Noise disruptions are a common — and at times complex — irritant for some city dwellers and, in this case, the problem appears to be worst for those who live in a small cluster of homes near Lansdowne’s northern edge.

Farmers' Market struggles in move back to Lansdowne

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Laura Robin, Ottawa Citizen

Lansdowne Report Card: FARMERS’ MARKET

Grade: C+

WHAT’S WORKING:

  • The farmers. They’re working really hard and overcoming big obstacles to bring their produce to the city, and setting up attractive stalls in spite of the hassles (like nowhere for them to store things or park nearby.)
  • It’s a fabulous new opportunity for the market to operate year round, inside the Aberdeen Pavilion in winter. It opened again Sunday, Jan. 10, and will open each Sunday, right through to next year’s Christmas market.
  • The outdoor area has some upsides compared to previous sites, such as good drainage.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT:

  • The city and OSEG need to treat Ottawa Farmers’ Market as a valuable asset, not an afterthought. By spring, the city should provide the outdoor amenities it promised.
  • OSEG should not mess with market hours, as it has in the past.
  • Free parking should be offered for market customers, at least for a limited time.
  • Signs on Bank Street and the Queen Elizabeth Driveway, and in the underground garage, should remind people about the market and how to get to it.
  • A welcoming, shaded spot should be created for pausing and picnicking near the market.
  • Consideration should be given to making the Aberdeen Pavilion the market’s exclusive home, with permanent stalls, like Montreal’s Atwater and Toronto’s St. Lawrence, with a big enough range of products that it’s a one-stop shopping and tourist draw.
  • If Loblaws can sell Labatts, Ottawa’s farmers market should be allowed to showcase Ottawa’s exceptional craft beer scene.

Like a particularly hardy crop of kale, it seems that Ottawa Farmers’ Market will survive, though it was uprooted — twice — for the Lansdowne Park redevelopment.

The transplant back to Lansdowne was unquestionably difficult, though, with wilting sales, at least one lost livelihood and even some sacrificial pigs and lambs.

Lansdowne's public spaces: Mixed reviews and room for improvement

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The Skating Court at Lansdowne Park. BRUCE DEACHMAN / OTTAWA CITIZEN

Bruce Deachman, Ottawa Citizen

Lansdowne Report Card: PUBLIC SPACES

Grade: B+

WHAT'S WORKING:

The Skating Court: With the lights of the Aberdeen Pavilion and the rest of Lansdowne as a backdrop, this is perhaps the most picturesque skating rink in Ottawa, at least among those measuring less than 7 km in length.

The Great Lawn: Whether you’re into solitary yoga or a concert with your 15,000 closest friends, this is a great outdoor space.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT:

Playground: For all of Lansdowne’s supposed grandeur and inclusiveness, youngsters got the short end of the planner’s stick.

Aberdeen Pavilion and Horticulture Building: Arguably the two most attractive buildings at Lansdowne, they require more, and better, usage.

The design competition for the urban park at Lansdowne came quite late in the years-long process to settle on a redevelopment plan, leading critics to charge that the public areas were simply an afterthought to appease those opposed to the boxy commercial buildings.

Still, the $42-million publicly funded project – which included moving and refurbishing the Horticulture Building – was a far cry from the original plan to split $5 million in landscaping costs with OSEG. The results are meeting with mixed reviews, although of the all elements at the new Lansdowne, the public spaces can be easily improved over time with more programming and additional components.

Here’s a look at the public spaces and how they have fared.