Lansdowne redevelopment plan unveiled

A proposal for a redesigned Lansdowne Park features a revamped Frank Clair Stadium partially nestled in a bowl of wood and a move of the Horticulture Building next to the Aberdeen Pavilion.

A proposal for a redesigned Lansdowne Park features a revamped Frank Clair Stadium partially nestled in a bowl of wood and a move of the Horticulture Building next to the Aberdeen Pavilion.

Ottawa residents got their first look at the plans for the updated sports stadium and commercial complex on Thursday at a presentation at Carleton University.

Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group's plan, along with one of five proposals for the "urban park" portion of Lansdowne will be put forward to Ottawa city council for approval in late June.

The redesign includes a refurbished Frank Clair Stadium, with a wood-slat, curved "veil" behind the south side stands that the proposal said reflects the city's lumber heritage. The south side stands will be nestled into the side of a massive berm so some seats will sit below ground level. It will be surrounded by botanical gardens.

It would also include the expansion of the Glebe neighbourhood's grid street system into the Lansdowne site to accommodate traffic from the addition of retail stores, condominiums and public squares. Bank Street would be converted into a tree-lined esplanade. In all, the development will include about 350,000 square feet of stores restaurants and bars bookended by two residential highrises. The commercial spaces will be set up as pavilions with some larger and some smaller units. There will be about 250 residential units.

No art gallery

The plan does not specifically include a municipal art gallery, even though the Ottawa Art Gallery had been in talks with the city and the developers earlier in May.

Roger Greenberg of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group says to make the economics works, the gallery would have to pay market rent.

"If the art gallery wanted to have its own building paid for and built for itself … that would presumably have to be part of the front lawn," Greenberg said, referring to the green space in the southeast section of the site that isn't covered by his plan. Instead, six firms presented their proposals to the city last week as part of a green space design competition.

The new plan calls for the relocation of the Horticulture Building to a "prominent and historically significant location on the east side" of the Aberdeen Pavilion within Lansdowne's new urban park.

The Ontario Heritage Trust has already said it opposes moving the building and would seek heritage protection for the structure in an effort to keep it where it is.

Mixed reviews

The new proposal got a glowing review from Mayor Larry O'Brien.

"They've more than adequately captured a vision of the future for the City of Ottawa and they have coupled it so whimsically and so  poignantly to our past," he said.

Coun. Rick Chiarelli had a similar opinion: "Most people are going to take it happily … this is I think one of the most exciting and dramatic improvements in the city in my lifetime."

Coun. Clive Doucet, who represents the neighbourhood surrounding Lansdowne Park, was less impressed.

"The public is going to cough up $280 million for the stadium," he said. "So the public is going to pay and some folks are gonna make a lot of money."

Greenberg said he's already received compliments on the plan from many neighbourhood residents.

"I cannot tell you how many people come up to me, they look around to see who's around them, and then they say to me, 'I just want you to know, I'm a resident of the Glebe — I think this is a terrific plan.'"

Corky McTaggart wasn't one of them. "I'm horrified by the plans for this intense development in a public space," she said. "There's no aspect of park left, really."

Jean-Claude Dubé, another Glebe resident, was concerned about the height of buildings on at the north end of the development. Those along Holmwood Avenue are two stories, but the ones behind them are much higher. 

Dubé was also skeptical of the picture painted by the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group.

"This is not traditional mainstreet," he said. "This is downtown Montreal."

Residents will be able to provide their comments on the proposed designs from June 1 to 13. The designs will be on display from May 28 until June 13 at City Hall.

Meanwhile, the public is also being invited to provide feedback on separate plans for the green space in the southeast part of the park, which were unveiled last week.

City council is expected to make a final decision on the entire redesign of Lansdowne Park in late June.