Friday, August 28, 2009

Why Not Ask First? We May Have Other Plans!

There's a lot of hoopla in the mainstream media these days with everybody and their brother popping up with new plans for Lansdowne Park.

The alternative plans tend to share some elements in common:

The Glebe will get a big grassy and treed park. Someone else's money will restore some older, architecturally significant buildings into marvellous wonders for the local neighborhood. Locals will wander in on bicycles and by foot to buy directly from the friendly farmer locally-grown no-downside produce. After that they can linger by Venetian canals sipping coffee from organically grown (in the shade) responsibility harvested 100 mile coffee beans, while the breeze waffles in the gentle strains of the NAC orchestra playing in the park. Tourists come (by transit, of course, or maybe electric vaporettos or bixi bikes) to wander, mouths agape, at the wonder that is the heart of The Glebe. The vital canal side sidewalks are enlived by the thousands of residents who live in the park ... except for the plans that insist no one may live in the park, unless maybe they are renters.

Gone will be the football stadium, soccer stadium, and outdoor concert venue. Where did they go? Over to Bayview, of course. Nothing attracts amateur planners like a big "empty" lot.

What happens to the plans already in place for that neighborhood? What happened to their plans for lively cafes along an historic aquaduct? Fun riverside walks? Vital mixed income condo developments? Ethnic shopping nirvana?

Gone. Replaced by a giant stadium or stadii, deafened by outdoor concerts, swarmed by hodes or car parkers (not everyone will arrive and depart by magically silent bullfrog-powered transit). For most days and evenings, the stadium areas will be vacant wideswept voids, interrupted by tractor trailer bays and large parking structures (pressed into cost-recovery use as park and ride facilities to encourage car commuters to drive to the edge of the downtown core and take free transit...).

Oh, think maybe the locals might prefer the "other plans" already developed and approved by Council and subject to subdivision agreements and into which millions of tax dollars in infrastructure development and land remediation have already been poured? Well, here, toss them a library building, now that's an intellectual+jock=happy formula. Nevermind that the City already has a new library on track, approved land purchase, and has a library board and ward councillor opposed to moving to Bayview, well they can be changed, just a triffling issue.

Too much of the Lansdowne Park dreaming seems hinged on dreams of the Glebe getting a urban area high-culture park to foster their Florida-inspired nirvana while fobbing off the noisy and troublesome stuff to another neighborhood, without bothering to ask if the recipients of all this largesse want it.

Just for the record, I am not totally opposed to the idea of a utopian-dream stadium at Bayview, but I am sure concerned about what sort of stadium the neighborhood would actually end up with.


  1. The Hintonburg Community Association did a lot of work with Mayor Chiarelli on the current version of the city's plan for the Yards, and continue to believe that a vibrant mixed-use centre, with transit as a hub and anchored by a civic/federal institution or use is the best one. We'll insist, when a proposal is put on the table for the Yards, on meaningful consultation.

    A stadium might or might not be a good use for the land. I do know that the discussion is going to intense within Hintonburg, with many in favour, and many against. But, it's premature to do such a consultation right now since no one is actually proposing any use for the Yards. No one with the wherewithal to actually mount a massive development project has yet opened their wallets.

    We just finished a brutally divisive process around re-locating the Parole Office. The process was ill-thought-through and incredibly insensitive, and Hintonburg should never have been given just two or three weeks to come to some sort of grips with the proposal. The only thing that could have come out of that crucible was the division and bitterness that we saw.

    Now, I'm afraid the same thing may happen. Opponents of a stadium at Lansdowne are throwing up flak to confuse the issue, and we'll get caught in the cross-fire, debating the pros and cons of a stadium and being asked to say yay or nay when the fact is clear that there is no real proposal for the Yards.

    One of these days, Ottawa will stop foisting its problems on Hintonburg. That day doesn't seem to have come yet, alas.

  2. Good post. This is a perspective I haven't even considered in the debates.

    I'm cautiously in favour of Lansdowne Live myself (reserving final judgement until we actually see the final plans next Wednesday, something everyone seems to be forgetting about right now), but it's interesting that neither of the two Glebe-based proposals include a stadium—something that would have been a requirement in a design competition.

  3. ... and i happen to actually believe tht the best place for a football stadium is beside Scotiabank Place. Hockey stadiums belong downtown - football stadiums belong in the burbs.

    Why? Hockey stadiums are used much more (weeknights, minimum 40 nights a year and many concerts). Their peak traffic coincides with rush hour.

    A football stadium is open air, so it cannot be used in the winter November to April?). It has 10 - 12 games a year played, mostly on weekend afternoons (ie when the ads have less traffic) AND it uses 2 - 3 times the land as a hockey stadium, so it blights a neighbourhood rather than brings vitality.

    I would not wish a stadium on Hintonburg - from my point of view Carlton (on the OTrain) or Scotiabank Place make the best location for a stadium. The problem with Lansdowne is that ideally the parking lot gets removed, but that causes problems on game day.

  4. So not having a stadium at Lansdowne would make more sense if we just left something decrepit and acres of parking there instead? Would that make Bayview or any other location more palatable? Heaven forfend that something happen in The Glebe, the easy target of the City. (Disclosure: I grew up in The Glebe, have little interest in living there, since I love Hintonburg).

  5. As a point of clarification Frank Clair stadium is used year round for soccer with a dome put over the playing surface during the winter. There are leagues seven nights a week and during the days on the weekends. The Coliseum building (which fronts on to Bank St) is used by the same league as well.

    The Landsdowne Live proposal lost my support when they proposed an aquarium. This shows a complete lack of imagination on their part.

    I also think the CFL will fail again with a new stadium as attendances were never very high through the Renegades or Roughrider final seasons. No one under 40 really cares about the CFL (except the Grey Cup) except a core group of fans.

    I am glad I moved away from the Glebe in 2008.