City councillors vote on future of Lansdowne Park

Ottawa councillors voted at city hall Wednesday to give the Lansdowne Live developers a chance to be part of the future of Lansdowne Park.

Ottawa city councillors voted Wednesday to begin negotiations with the Lansdowne Live development group to revitalize Lansdowne Park.

The motion, tabled by Rick Chiarelli, the councillor for the city's College ward, passed 14-9 Wednesday afternoon following a day of discussion.

For weeks, there has been a heated debate over two unsolicited stadium proposals the city has received: one pitch, called Landsdowne Live, proposes the revitalization of Lansdowne Park through the construction of a new football stadium while the other suggested building a soccer stadium in Kanata.

Some councillors have said that regardless of where a stadium goes — if one is constructed at all — the future of Lansdowne Park still has to be decided.

"This motion will become known as the motion we passed to finally do something at Lansdowne Park," Chiarelli said shortly before the vote.

Entertainment/shopping centre less likely

Earlier in the day, council had voted against renewing the design competition for the site, which gave the appearance that council was closer to endorsing the Lansdowne Live project.

The Lansdowne Live group is headed up by Ottawa 67s owner Jeff Hunt and proposes that after the stadium is built — which is the only part of the project the city would vote on now —  it would eventually make Lansdowne into an entertainment centre with a shopping centre and aquarium.

But council voted Wednesday afternoon to restrict what can be placed on the Bank Street site.

Councillor Diane Deans put forward a motion, approved by council, that would require any development of Lansdowne Park to respect the character of the neighbourhood and would prohibit the development from including any housing or large retail stores.

Rick Chiarelli, the councillor for College Ward, said he thought the city should partner with the Lansdowne Live group if it wants to make the site beside the Rideau Canal a priority. But he said his motion wouldn't put the group in control of the Lansdowne site.

"It says we're not turning the keys over to you," said Chiarelli. "It will be a combination lock and we both have the combination."

Rick O'Connor, the city's solicitor, however, said that choosing the unsolicited Lansdowne Live proposal without a competition could create legal problems for the city if it weren't for the fact that what the group is offering is unique.

"The key, in my legal opinion with regards to it, is the ability to bring a CFL professional football franchise back to Ottawa," he said. "So that is something that we, at this point in time, as a city cannot get from any other vendor, any other developer, any other individual."

According to Peter Hume, the councillor for Alta Vista ward, councillors should also be worried about problems that pairing could create within their constituencies.

He said the Lansdowne Live project might not do enough to revitalize the Lansdowne site.

"When we go out to the citizens of Ottawa and say we've revitalized Lansdowne Park, we won't be telling the truth because we will have revitalized maybe half of it," said Hume.

Cyril Leeder, the chief operating officer for the Ottawa Senators and one of the people behind the Kanata project, said his group could stand behind their pitch regardless of the focus on Lansdowne.

"We're not the preferred option," he said. "I think that's pretty obvious. Whether we want to hang in there as a second choice, we have to make that decision."

The passing of Chiarelli's motion now means the city has 60 days to negotiate an agreement with the developers behind Lansdowne Live on how to redevelop the site.

If an agreement can't be reached, there's still a chance that the project won't go ahead.