City of Ottawa's Lansdowne legal tab to swell by another $200,000

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By David Reevely, The Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — The city expects to spend as much as another $200,000 fighting in court to defend its plans for Lansdowne Park — and perhaps more, as new legal threats land at City Hall.

That could take the total tab past $1.7 million.

City council voted Thursday to continue with its Lansdowne plans, accepting a longer timeline for the project that will see work finished in 2015, two years later than it was all supposed to have been done. Councillors also agreed to revised financial projections that strengthen the city's financial position somewhat, but also to spend more money sooner on the project's design work and on preparing to move the historic Horticulture Building elsewhere on the Glebe site to make way for a parking garage and commercial space. The vote was 21-2, with downtown councillors David Chernushenko and Diane Holmes dissenting.

Part of the delay is caused by a court case brought by a community group called the Friends of Lansdowne Park. According to a report to councillors, the litigation occupied a great deal of staff time before Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland in July rejected the Friends' allegations that the city's deal with the private Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (to renovate Frank Clair Stadium and construct retail and commercial space along the northern and western edges of the site) amounts to an illegal subsidy, violated the city's procurement bylaw and was negotiated in bad faith.

The Friends have filed formal notice of their intention to appeal, and city solicitor Rick O'Connor told councillors that he expects the next stage of the case to cost between $100,000 and $200,000 in fees for the private lawyers hired to represent the city. There's room allowed for it in the revised timeline for the project.

Lansdowne delays could impact FIFA bid

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Laura Mueller / OTTAWA THIS WEEK

GLEBE - The community is still trying to absorb the impact of an almost-yearlong delay in the Lansdowne redevelopment project.

Perhaps the most significant fallout could be the effect on the city's bid to host two FIFA women's world-cup soccer games in 2015. Ottawa is one of seven cities in the running to host two women's world cup soccer tournaments in July of 2014 and June of 2015.

Under the revised timelines released in a city report on Aug. 12, the stadium wouldn't be ready to use until early 2014.

A representative from the Canadian Soccer Association did not respond to requests to comment on the potential impact of the delay on its FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) bid, but Coun. Steve Desroches said FIFA could "find some comfort" in city council's desire to move forward on the project.

"I think it's critical that we keep to the timelines so that we can provide those assurances to FIFA," Desroches said.

He added that he isn't aware of any concerns that have been expressed by the organizers of the U-20 Women's World Cup (2014) and FIFA Women's World Cup (2015).

Capital Ward Coun. David Chernushenko refrained from saying "I told you so," but as the lone dissenter on the motion to seek the FIFA tournaments, he said he wouldn't be surprised if the revised timelines had some impact on the stadium's readiness to host the events.

But he added that as a soccer fan, he hopes FIFA would look at other, perhaps more important, factors that go into hosting a successful sporting event, such as the atmosphere of the capital, associated entertainment events and transportation options.

"(Ottawa) would appeal because it's the capital," Chernushenko said. "You can host an event in an unfinished stadium."

Temporary stands could be installed in the interim if the stadium is not fully completed, Chernushenko said.

Chernushenko was also quick to dismiss claims that the Friends of Lansdowne legal challenge was the main or only reason for the delay.

"I continue to resent that implication," he said, adding that there have been many delays on OSEG and the designers' side as well.

As for whether the reconstruction of Bank Street in the Glebe could have waited until next year, Chenushenko said he would have approached the issue differently if he had known Lansdowne would be delayed.

"In life, you have to make decisions based on the information you have at the time," he said, noting that waiting until 2012 to reconstruct the street still would not have allowed the city to find funds to bury the hydro wires.

Heritage agency ready to compromise on Lansdowne plan

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By David Reevely, The Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — The provincial heritage agency that controls key aspects of the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park can live with the redevelopment planned for the property as long as the historic centrepiece of the site is preserved and enhanced, according to an agreement it's reached with the city.

No final agreement has been reached between the city and the Ontario Heritage Trust, but they do have a deal on broad principles that allow planning work on the Lansdowne project to continue. Although city staff reported to councillors last week that they'd reached that deal, neither body wanted to release its terms — spokesmen for each said they were afraid of offending each other, and the negotiations are delicate.

But in essence, the agreement lets Lansdowne Park be redeveloped as long as the result is to put the Aberdeen Pavilion in a more attractive setting that gets more use than the sea of parking that surrounds it now.

The trust bought a crucial degree of control over the city-owned Lansdowne Park in 1992, when it contributed $2 million toward the $4.5-million repair of the pavilion at a time when the former city of Ottawa was scrounging for money. It secured not only the city's promise to protect and preserve the Aberdeen Pavilion, but also wide sightlines to the building from Queen Elizabeth Drive and Bank Street.

Lansdowne end-date delayed two years

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Court challenges push back completion of renovations, but city documents say CFL team may face just one-year hold

By David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen 

Renovating Lansdowne Park will take two years longer than planned, according to documents provided to city councillors Thursday evening, though a new professional football team could only be delayed for one year.

The documents describe changes to the so-called Lansdowne Partnership Plan, between the city and a group of private developers and sports businessmen called the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group. Together, they'd renovate Frank Clair Stadium for a new CFL football team and minor-league soccer team and erect commercial and residential buildings on the northern part of the site. The city also plans to replace most of the expanse of parking lots at Lansdowne with a new urban park.

According to the original plan, it all was supposed to be finished by June 2013, just in time to field the football team for that season. Instead, according to a memo from city manager Kent Kirkpatrick, the stadium isn't expected to be substantially completed until December of that year and not ready for use until June 2014. Work on the park won't begin until January 2014 and won't be done until summer 2015, according to the new schedule.

City of Ottawa wins Lansdowne case

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By DAVID REEVELY AND NECO COCKBURN, The Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — The City of Ottawa has won its legal case with the Friends of Lansdowne with the release Thursday afternoon of a decision that rejects all the Friends' arguments.

The Friends had gone to court to try to stop plans to redevelop the property at Bank Street and the Rideau Canal, claiming the city had violated its own procurement bylaw, promised illegal subsidies to private business, and negotiated the whole thing in bad faith. The plan calls for the city to go into partnership with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, a consortium of property developers and sports businessmen, to refurbish Frank Clair Stadium for pro football and soccer and build new residential and commercial space across the north end of the city-owned site.

Justice Charles Hackland dismisses each of the Friends' claims, finding either that the Friends didn't prove their point or that second-guessing politicians' political decisions is not the role of the court, as long as those decisions are made reasonably.

"The applicant's arguments ... even if correct factually or as matters of reasonable opinion, do not individually or taken together, amount to bad faith," Hackland wrote.

He wrote the public consultation on the Lansdowne plans was extensive, and so was the city's solicitation of expert outside advice. City council debated the matter thoroughly and made an honest decision, he found. On occasions where city staff presented erroneous or incomplete information to city council, Hackland found it they were the result of honest mistakes and didn't likely make any meaningful difference in councillors' deliberations.

The Friends pointed to a report from consulting firm Deloitte, presented to the city early in the consideration of the redevelopment proposal, which was critical of the prospective deal. The city didn't make it public or present it to councillors, a move the Friends alleged was improper. Hackland disagreed.

Lansdowne Park plan poor in pizzazz: Councillor

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By Jon Willing, Ottawa Sun

A Lansdowne Park design review panel is scheduled meet for the first time this term of council on Thursday to pore through new concepts, which include retail drawings from a U.S.-based firm.

One committee member says the fresh drawings don’t knock his socks off.

“My socks are still firmly on,” Coun. David Chernushenko said Wednesday.

Chernushenko, who represents the Glebe community, said a prime piece of real estate requires more pizzazz than what he sees on paper and he plans to tell the architects exactly that.

Free parking at Lansdowne July 11-17

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The City has confirmed that free parking will be available at Lansdowne Park next week, as there are no paid parking events from July 11 to 17.

Ça passe ou ça casse pour Lansdowne

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Le projet devant la Cour supérieure de l'Ontario, mardi prochain

François Pierre Dufault, Le Droit

Les vieux gradins du « south side » du stade Frank-Clair sont toujours debout, près d'un an après que le projet de revitalisation du parc Lansdowne eut reçu l'approbation du conseil municipal d'Ottawa. Et ils ne tomberont pas tant que la Cour supérieure de l'Ontario n'aura pas décidé de la légalité du partenariat public-privé évalué à près de 300 millions $.

Le combat entre la Ville d'Ottawa et les opposants au nouveau Lansdowne entrera dans son dernier round, la semaine prochaine, lorsque le tribunal provincial entendra la cause. Trois jours d'audiences sont prévus à compter de mardi. Une décision est attendue, au plus tôt, à la mi-juillet. La Cour peut soit cautionner le projet, soit l'invalider et forcer la Ville à tout recommencer.

L'automne dernier, une coalition ad hoc appelée les Amis de Lansdowne a intenté une poursuite contre la Ville. Ses membres jugent que l'administration municipale a agi illégalement en s'associant avec un partenaire privé, l'Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group (OSEG), sans que son projet de revitalisation du parc Lansdowne n'ait fait l'objet d'un appel d'offres.

De son côté, la Ville se défend que le projet était non sollicité. Elle ne peut toutefois pas nier qu'elle cherchait depuis une quinzaine d'années à donner un nouveau souffle à son parc urbain de la rue Bank. Et lorsque l'OSEG l'a approchée avec une première ébauche de son projet, en 2008, elle a délibérément interrompu un concours international de design qu'elle avait lancé quelques mois plus tôt.

« Nous n'avons pas intenté cette poursuite de façon irréfléchie. Nous l'avons fait parce que nous sommes convaincus à 100 % que la Ville d'Ottawa a agi illégalement », insiste le professeur Ian Lee, de l'école de gestion de l'Université Carleton.

Lansdowne heritage ruling 'embarrassing' for city, group says

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Laura Mueller, www.yourottawaregion.com

GLEBE - Heritage Ottawa says the city should be embarrassed about being on the losing side of a hearing about heritage conservation at Lansdowne Park.

The heritage group objected to the city's decision to move the Hortoculture building to another location on the Lansdowne site to make way for an Empire cinema and an underground parking garage. The heritage designation on the 1914-era building had to be stripped in order to make the move possible, and that's where Heritage Ottawa drew the line.

The Ontario Conservation Review Board agreed.

During a hearing at Centrepointe Theatre from April 18 to 22, the board found that the city's case for lifting and moving the Horticulture Building is built on "transient, project specific and insufficient grounds."