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Affordable housing, new retail could be part of Lansdowne Park's renewal plans

Affordable housing will be a key consideration in whatever is negotiated in the new plans.
2019-06-12 TD Place Lansdowne Park
Aerial of TD Place and Lansdowne, June 12, 2019. Mike Vlasveld/

The changes coming to Ottawa’s outdated and deteriorating Lansdowne Park could involve more housing units on its grounds, including the possibility of affordable housing.

In a city report that will be presented at Tuesday’s finance and economic development committee meeting, the city doesn’t only talk about ways to rehabilitate the Civic Centre and north stands, but also addresses what to do with the remaining surrounding property. This includes adding more housing and changing the site’s retail spaces.

And at the moment, city staff are estimating that the city’s share of the the work will cost $675,000, which will include a project manager for the project office but doesn't include public consultation costs.

The city, though, has outlined some ideas that could help with funding its share of the project (the other half will be paid by OSEG as part of the Lansdowne Park Partnership).

“To defray the capital cost of reconstructing and provide more residents living at Lansdowne, housing units could be included as a component of the replacement option,” the report outlines.

This, the report adds, would generate revenue from air rights to the city and property-tax uplift. Air right revenues would be a source of income for the city to help fund the cost of construction for the stadium and area.

The demolition would also require the existing retail be replaced by the new commercial or retail space in a new structure in the reconstruction project. Additional retail could have the advantage of creating new spaces for business opportunities at grade and it could give a financial improvement to the partnership, the city adds.

If the city were to demolish the Civic Centre and north side stands (which were built in 1967), it would mean J Block would also have to be demolished, where the current retail space houses Goodlife Fitness and other small commercial storefronts.

The proposed demolition and replacement would not affect the south side stands and there is no proposal for residential development adjacent to the south side stands near Queen Elizabeth Driveway.

“The Working Groups believe that improvements in all of these areas are needed in some form and have the potential to ensure the long-term sustainability of the [Lansdowne Park Partnership] and, if affordable and developed in keeping with the Council-approved objectives for Lansdowne Park, address the current challenges on the site,” the report says.

This, the city says, could bring new opportunities and vitality to the area, with new retail and affordable housing, as well as other new housing units. Affordable housing, the city adds, will be a key consideration in whatever is negotiated.

These changes are part of the $32.181-million budget for renewal projects for the grounds, which also includes changes to the Civic Centre and north side stands. Over the next five years, $5-million of that money will be used in identified projects.

At the moment, TD Place has 360,000 square feet of commercial development space.

“In order to make the project financially affordable, the air rights above the existing structures that remain would be used to build new housing units on the site, with a portion of those being affordable housing units (to be determined in consultation with Community and Social Services and with advice from providers such as Ottawa Community Housing, CAHDCO, etc),” the report outlines. “Air right revenues would be a source of revenue for the City to help fund the cost of construction for the stadium and arena.”

The existing retail would be replaced by the new commercial or retail space in a  new structure in the reconstruction project.

The additional retails could also have the advantage of creating new spaces for business opportunities and it could give a financial improvement to the partnership.

“One of the advantages of having an additional population living on the site is that it creates additional foot traffic on the site to support local retailers,” the report continues. “Larger retailers depend on a broader target population to be successful, generating some spin-off businesses for their smaller neighbours during peak hours. Smaller retailers and services tend to be supported by the population within walking distance during off-peak hours.”

The city and OSEG are in a 40-year partnership that has shared benefits, goals and challenges, the city says. It’s also understood that both parties have separate needs and priorities.

City staff also recommend that public access to the site should be fine-tuned so that pedestrians and cyclists feel safer. And given that Lansdowne was designed to be a destination event park, the city will need the input of a broad and diverse group of voices and perspectives from across the city and beyond.

This part of the process could cost about $200,000.

Staff believe all the work for this next phase can be done and reported back to committee and council by the end of the first quarter of 2022.

“If the work undertaken is successful, we would recommend a proposal to revitalize Lansdowne Park that will make Lansdowne a 365-days a year attraction and ensure the sustainability of the Partnership over its term,” the city says in its report. “Should council approve that proposal, a recommended Project Agreement would be brought forward for consideration early in the next term to Council.

Lansdowne Park is a 40-acre historical sport, recreation and entertainment space. It is also considered part of the Rideau Canal UNESCO world heritage site.

It’s been seven years since the new Lansdowne space opened to the public. Since then, the park has had over 20-million visitors.

In 2019, about 4-million visitors had come to the park, however, if the partnership is to be sustainable of the life of the agreement, Lansdowne Park needs to attract at least 5-million visitors a year.

There has also been over 1,000 large and small events that have taken place on the grounds.

The site currently houses over 50 businesses and has created over 4,000 full and part-time jobs.

The partnership will last 40 years, but 30 of those years are dedicated to repair and replacement for the facility. With the work plan having started in 2010, this means work must be completed by 2031.

The entirety of the review is to include ways to increase foot traffic on the site, including the options to enhance animation, improve public amenities, assess aging infrastructure and to increase the density in keep with council’s urban intensification principals, including affordable housing.

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