Published on May 24, 2009 1:23 AM by dbo.
The negotiations between the City of Ottawa and the Lansdowne Live! group have begun to create a design and economic plan for Lansdowne Park. The design part will likely be more of a collaboration, with the developers asking the city for their requirements and trying to fit them into the park and budget. The negotiations will likely come over the budget and financial requirements of the developers. The developers will want some commercial space as public space doesn’t provide them a return on their investment; without it the city would be left with funding the whole project as pure public space. There is also a list of requirements the plan must follow, such as accommodation of the farmer’s market and city approval of all tenants, design and form of buildings.
With a tight deadline, a reluctant council, a neighbourhood to please and a campaign against them the developers have their work cut out for them. However, the developers have not insisted on any part of their plan except keeping the stadium/arena complex. They believe they can incorporate a park structure around the stadium to fit the land into the neighbourhood. A city committee focused on what it can and can’t do should be able to negotiate a design that meets the requirements of all concerned.
I thought it would be interesting to look at the current site plans and the new requirements and come up with a site plan that incorporates the outdoor stadium in a park environment. Not being an Ottawa citizen, I first decided to familiarize myself with the city. To first confirm that Lansdowne is the best place for the stadium I decided to look at the top five sites on the city’s stadium site list. I have marked each of the top locations on the map below. Not knowing the city, I did my best to locate each site accurately and believe I have at least located them in the correct general area.
Universities and stadiums always seem to be a perfect fit in Canada. They provide an additional partner and usage as well as a location that has the parking and mass transit options available. In this case Carleton University is close to the existing Lansdowne site, is centrally located and close to the Rideau Canal. It also appears to have some land that could fit a stadium, but available space may need to be reserved for future university expansion. Negotiations would likely put a project completion date 5 years or more out.
West of the LeBreton Flats (see next location), it has accessibility to good transportation links and the proposed route of the light rail and current O-Train as well as a location near the Ottawa River and close to downtown. The site’s size is capable of containing a stadium as well as parking and some commercial development. A great site, the only cons are the cost and time it would take to develop a new outdoor stadium and arena here.
What would be my number one spot, the Flats have a nice downtown location beside the Ottawa River. The complaint against this site is the expectation that development of the site would take ten years, time that the city can’t afford with opportunities facing them now.
This site, north of the man-made Dow’s Lake off the Rideau Canal, appears to require a stadium be crammed into existing green space with no surrounding buffer zone. There is more space farther south across the Rideau Canal from Carleton University which may be more appropriately sized.
This site appears to be barely large enough for for a small community arena, and definitely could not fit an outdoor stadium and provide the public transportation and parking that is desired. How this made fifth place I am not sure. These small urban parks should be left alone to provide an green oasis amid the concrete and asphalt of the city.
The top five other sites only has two real contenders in my mind. Bayview Road and LeBreton Flats provide adequate space and transportation options, but additional time to negotiate, plan and develop those locations make them non-starters unless the city is willing to wait 10 years and spend twice as much for an outdoor stadium. Two other sites in the top five do not have adequate space to accommodate the stadium or the transportation and parking that are listed as failures of the Lansdowne site. Choosing a site that is worse or no better off than the current site makes little sense. This leaves the Lansdowne Park site as the best alternative for a quick and affordable outdoor stadium for Ottawa. The opportunity now lies in designing the area to satisfy everyone in compromise.
The park design will be controlled by a number of factors and goals:
Looking at the first artist renderings of the park design on Lansdowne Live! we can see that a substantial amount of new green space is added. There may need to be tweaks to the types of features the city wants, such as the reflecting pool, koi pond, band shell and amphitheater, and the location of the fields and parking, but overall there shouldn’t be too much difficulty in this area. The aquarium and the Aberdeen Pavilion are also not big sticking points as the aquarium was always a separate privately funded project. The Aberdeen Pavilion receives great visibility from Bank Street like today with a tree-lined pedestrian path and could also be more visible from Holmwood Avenue with the reduction of the retail village. The residential plans along Holmwood due to the no housing requirement could be replaced with a pedestrian/bicycle path.
The hard part of the design comes from working some commercial space into the park. The first renderings included a hotel, retail village and restaurants. The hotel may fall under the ban of large format commercial development; it is not clear. The retail village may also need to be tweaked as a number of small row shops rather than a large indoor retail village that included a movie theatre. The restaurants may need to be relocated to the north-west corner, which seems the likely place for commercial development. Any larger buildings allowed may be considered for green roofs for the ecological and fitting in with the park benefits. With a few tweaks the existing drawings can be a good start towards the final plan.
The refurbished stadium and arena will be the focus of the site. Improving the look of the stadium will go a long way to making the site appear more park-like. Otherwise it will look like a industrial stadium next to the new green space. The main issue with the current stadium’s aged look is with the stadium cover and concrete stands. The Lansdowne Live! drawings of the stadium seem to have some good ideas as how to fix the existing stadium. As drawings, however, they may not prove accurate once the construction is completed unless certain requirements are pointed out as necessary.
This covers the look of the site and stadium and its features. I do not believe that any of this will be real sticking points in the negotiations. The issue will come down to, once the design and features are decided, is who will pay for it. To that I can only say that working with the existing stadium and arena will be both cost effective and an integral part of a greener park. While I do not expect the park to turn out exactly like the drawings, if these points are kept in mind I am confident that the park and stadium will be a very worthy desination for the citizens of Ottawa.