The City of Ottawa will go ahead and review the only proposal it has received for the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park without soliciting any others, for now.
Ottawa councillors decided Wednesday to spend until January reviewing the plan for the central Ottawa park released in October by a group that includes Jeff Hunt — owner of the Ontario Hockey League Ottawa 67's — and Minto property developer Roger Greenberg. The group has been awarded a CFL franchise conditional on a lease agreement with the city that includes a reconstruction plan for Frank Clair Stadium, located inside the park. The offer for the franchise expires in March.
The plan included an upgraded soccer and football stadium, a refurbished arena and exhibition hall, an aquarium, an outdoor amphitheatre, a retail and restaurant complex, soccer pitches, event lawns, an ultimate-disc field and formal gardens and ponds.
Only if the plan is rejected in January will council open the competition to other bids.
A motion to reopen a design competition for the park was brought forward by Coun. Clive Doucet, who represents the ward that includes Lansdowne Park.
He argued the public has made it clear they want the design of the park to be determined by an open, public process that doesn't depend on the accommodation of a CFL franchise and suggested that "special consideration of an unsolicited, sole source proposal" could damage the city's reputation and open it to lawsuits from other potential bidders.
However, on Wednesday, he agreed to the compromise that postpones any competition until January rather than risk losing the vote on his motion.
Prior to the council vote, Mayor Larry O'Brien made it clear where he stood on the motion to reopen the competition.
"I will be working as hard as I can to prevent that motion from going ahead today," O'Brien said.
He called the design competition, which was put on hold in May, a "total waste of taxpayers' money" and said he thinks the only redesign plan the city is currently considering is a "very good proposal" from "very, very good business people with long ties to the City of Ottawa."
Montreal builder wants to bid for design
On Tuesday, the day before the motion was to go before council, the city received a letter from Montreal-based Broccolini Construction, which expressed interest in submitting a proposal. The firm recently completed Montreal's Saputo soccer stadium.
"While we fully respect and acknowledge the unsolicited submission submitted to city staff last month, we believe the City of Ottawa needs to follow a comprehensive and efficiently managed process to fully evaluate all options regarding the future redevelopment of Lansdowne Park for the ultimate benefit for all citizens of Ottawa," the letter said.
O'Brien dismissed its significance.
"Quite frankly, anyone can send a letter," he said. "Let's see what they mean and see what their actual proposal is.
Meanwhile, the CFL group has said it will pull its bid if the city reopens the competition.
Doucet said that's fine with him.
"Well, you know what, if they can't play with the big boys — goodbye!" he said Wednesday.
Redevelopment discussed for years
Bob Brocklebank, head of the Glebe Community Association representing residents near the stadium, said he likes the idea of Broccolini being able to bid for the redesign, as it built the Telus building in downtown Ottawa.
"I understand that's one of the certified environmental buildings to be built in Ottawa, so I'm quite interested to have this developer come forward with a proposal."
Plans to redevelop Lansdowne Park, located east of Bank Street just north of the Rideau Canal, have been discussed for years. They resurfaced after an engineer discovered cracks in the lower south side stands of Frank Clair Stadium in September 2007.
The stands were subsequently demolished. The city held public consultations and an international design competition. However, it put the competition on hold in May in anticipation of the plan from Hunt's group.