Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lansdowne Live

Some misc observations on Lansdowne Live, and in particular the meeting last night at arena Tom Brown arena.

1. Opponents are well organized, sporting custom printed apparel and carry bags (made of recycled hemp, I hope) and handing out reams of photocopied green paper that may have required the souls of every tree in the Glebe. Of course, the Glebe trees are still there (at least along Ralph and Percy when I walked up those streets yesterday) so trees from some other place were sacrificed. Sacrificing somewhere else seems a common theme.

2. The green shirters took off their shirts to sit among the audience or ask questions at the mike, at last night's Live meeting, thus appearing as 'unaffiliated' citizens when they hissed and boo'd answers and people they didn't like. As the meeting ended, the team uniforms were pulled on again. We require lobbyists to register so we know who is meeting whom, it might be nice if citizen lobbyists for one particular cause did the same by keeping their shirts on. (I wore a sweater and jacket throughout the meeting, the air conditioning worked well and continuously despite the crowded room).

3. Cullen, running for mayor, repeatedly referred to Bayview as the best site. He did not mention any alternative sites, certainly none in the Glebe or Ottawa South. He did not mention whether the local residents should have any voice in the matter. He gave every impression his mind was completely made up.

4. I am amazed at the ability of residents and politicians  to call for consultative planning but conveniently ignore the fact that the Bayview site already has a plan for 1600 medium density housing units and a 300,000 sq ft civic building (envisioned in the 2004 study final to be the library, which is now going elsewhere). But no where was a 25,000 seat stadium mentioned. I reviewed this with city planning staff and other community groups, and they confirm a stadium was not on the books. I also reread the Bayview report. Nary a stadium in sight, despite Martin claiming that residents have been consulted.

5. Getting into the Live meeting at Tom Brown was like running a gauntlet of time share salespeople in Mexico, with hyper-ventilating sales people pushing the merits of their real estate dreams. The alternatives to Lansdowne only look attractive because they are not fleshed out, they are conceptual ideas only, being compared to a detailed Lansdowne plan. Of course it is easy to pick at the detailed plan and fantasize about the vague one. Sell the sizzle.

6. I am constantly amazed at the people - politicians, architects, professors - who use one set of words to tell us why Lansdowne is Bad Plan (parking horrors! ugly stadium! sensitive neighborhood!) but then switch vocabulary when suggesting alternatives such as Bayview (civic structure! pedestrian paradise! transit nirvana!).  Residents of the Bayview area may be lower income than the Lansdowne area but we are not stupid.

 7. I am surprised how many people latch onto flimsy straws that support their views without thinking it through. Parking around Lansdowne - now and in the future - will be a problem. So will transit access. So people jump to the Bayview site as solving all this because its on one or more LRT lines (so would the Carleton site, but hey, that's too close to ... ). Well, Bluesfest is located just a few hundred meters east of Bayview, equally right on the transit line, and the neighborhood was plagued with parking problems as thousands of attendees drove to the event and tried to park on lawns, bouelevards, and park space when they couldn't find free on-street parking in the first block off the site. What will make all these people suddenly decide to take transit to the stadium?

8. People at the meeting derrided the park and ride schemes proposed in the Lansdowne Live plan, saying no one would park at Carleton U ($$) or Billings Bridge (because the mall is open 7 days a week and most evenings). But then, how would transit work for Bayview if people aren't expected to park at Lincoln fields, College Square, St Laurent and other shopping centres to take the LRT? Is the City expected to provide new larger park and ride lots for 24,000 cars? If so, shouldn't we consider where and at what cost?

9. Martin proposes a Bayview stadium that is sunk into the ground to partially hide it. As a resident of the Bayview area, and a walker, I can certainly attest to what planners know but seldom boast about: Bayview and LeBreton are low lying areas subject to cold winds from the west and north. They are, in short, thermal sinks. This might be a contributing reason they have always been low income areas. A sunken sadium would be even lower. Can Mick Jagger say "Brr"; Can Kiss-y cats fluff their fur? Surely outdoor concerts would be more comfortable at Lansdowne.

10. And just where does the Bayview parking structure go? Under the sunken stadium, five stories below the River level? And all those people leaving Bayview in their cars ... are they using the Ottawa River Commuter Expressways, even though using the Driveways is disparaged for Lansdowne? Which is it: NCC roads are usable, or not?

11. When the City first faced two competing stadium bids, I was surprised at how quickly centretown residents ruled out Kanata. Much of this is a knee jerk reaction, an antipathy to suburban development which must be derrided as dormitory land and forbidden to diversify. To my mind, the Scotiabank site was pretty attractive: it's far away from me, residents who move in will know they are getting the open air concerts forbidden to the sensitive ears of downtown residents, and it might be enough incentive to extend the LRT to Kanata sooner than later, so we can get rid of BRT in favour of LRT. And it has plenty of parking already.

12. Will the Green Shirt fiscal-hawks be around when alternative stadium sites are being planned for? Or are they really just opponents of a stadium at Lansdowne disguising their opposition in the guise of fiscal and procedural rectitude?

13. If a stadium is bad for established neighborhoods, such as the Glebe/Ottawa South, why is good for other residential areas? Wouldn't honesty require Lansdowne location opponents to oppose stadiums in other residential or urban areas and favour industrial locations? Alas, no such subtle thinking was apparent last night.

14. Questioners focussed on the long term viability of Lansdowne Live: what will become of the stadium in 30 or 60 or 100 years? The obvious answer is that sole city ownership has proven itself a failure as the stadium is crumbling around itself; the Live plan delivers a cash stream to keep the stadium maintained. Would that people were so concerned with the long-term consequences of all city decisions and expenditures.

15. Three politicans were present last night. Cullen took every opportunity to promote himself and Bayview, although Bayview is far from his ward (maybe that's why...). Kitchissippi ward councillor Leadman was there. She represents Bayview area, but said nary a word pro or con Bayview or even that maybe, just maybe, the surrounding community should be consulted and impacts on the area considered. Such admirable restraint! Wilkinson was there too, and did not embarass herself. Holmes was not there to put in a word for her ward which abuts the Bayview site.

16. The city manger Kent Kirpatrick handled hostile questions with grace and skill and in-depth knowledge. It was in marked contrast to the three politicans present. Kirpatrick for mayor !

Finally, a note on my own personal view: I do not think stadiums are easily integratable into urban areas, anywhere. I think stadiums are a component of a vital urban area that offers diverse entertainments and environments, even though I cannot recall ever attending a Lansdowne stadium event.  I am not adverse to looking at Bayview as a stadium site. I am adverse to being stuck with a stadium because an affluent bureaucracy-savy neighorhood gets a below-mediocre council to suddenly jump off a hot stove onto the nearest, ill-thought-out alternative. If Lansdowne Live is killed, what is the alternative?


  1. The reality is that LL opponents don't care if we have a stadium or not. They don't want one, so why would anyone else ?

    The "Bayview alternative" is just a fake to attempt to derail LL. The likelihood of a stadium at BVY is hovering near zero, IMO.

  2. I do not think stadiums are easily integratable into urban areas, anywhere.

    Except Montreal, and Toronto, and Chicago, and New York, and Vancouver, and, it would seem, just about any city except NIMBY (formerly known as Ottawa.)

  3. It's good to see some thoughtful criticism on this issue!

    It was really interesting for me to talk to the Lansdowne Live opponents at the City Hall meeting. I asked one of the women wearing the "ask me about sole source" t-shirts if there were any alternate plans for the site and she said she didn't know. Another opponent was baffled that I thought Bank Street, the main commercial street in the city, could support more retail. I don't have a car right now, because I find that I don't need one and when I want to go to the Glebe I either take the Transitway and get off at Billings Bridge or I take a nice walk along the canal or I walk all the way down Bank Street so the complaints about parking and transit don't really affect me.

    Bayview could be a great site, I don't know, but there's no one who actually wants to build there. There's someone willing to tear down a hideous eyesore and build something that the community can actually use instead. I'm sure there are improvements that can be made to the plan, but there's no constructive conversation that I can see going on right now.

  4. I was at the meeting last night and was shocked with the applause for the Bayview site, but it was mostly coming from the Glebeites who are just using the Bayview site to get rid of the stadium in their neighbourhood despite the fact that it was there long before those people moved into that area.

    I sent an email to Coucillor Leadman about the Bayview location for the stadium, and I am glad you brought it up since there were already plans for the site to put housing, and not a sports stadium. How would residents in the area feel about having a stadium in Bayview without being consulted?

  5. I agree with your assessment of the Green Shirts. At the September 28 consultation at Lansdowne, I asked one of the Green Shirts what organization he was representing. He hemmed and hawed and said that they have no organization. They're just a bunch of concerned citizens. I asked him again and he continued to dissemble. Not exactly the open face of a concerned citizen.

    Your assessment of Scotiabank Place is a little soft. I'm a Centertowner, and I'm unlikely to ever go back to the place. The last time I went to a Sens game, I spent an hour on the bus getting there and two hours on the bus getting back - it's a horrendous location for those of us who don't have cars. The problem with the place isn't that it's in suburbia, it's that it's hard to get to.

    Regardings Bayview as an alternative location to Lansdowne for a stadium, it does seem to make more sense from a transit perspective. Bayview is on the transitway's main line, it's the destination of Ottawa's existing rail line, and it's on the edge of the planned LRT. Lansdowne is... well... none of those things. It's on a two lane road (at best), that has too many stop lights for fast traffic. The canal-side road would be a reasonable entry and exit route, but it doesn't seem to be used for event traffic.

    I think that the Lansdowne Live proposal has gotten in the way of a more interesting debate:

    - Should Ottawa have a stadium? If so, how will it be financed and what sports and teams will play there? and,

    - What should be done with Lansdowne?

    Those two discussions are unrelated. The LL proposal would probably be better without the stadium, since it wouldn't have the same worst-case scenario for transit. Similarly, if we are to have a stadium, it would make sense to put it on the existing transit infrastructure or on the planned LRT.

  6. Very good post. I'm totally on-board with the fact that the procedure for LL sucked, but I'm also a pragmatist. LL is what we have, and by cancelling it, what makes anyone think that any ensuing design competitions for stadiums (at Lansdowne or elsewhere) will result in anything significantly better, given how this city works?

    And the whole idea of a stadium at Bayview\Lansdowne's "inaccessibility" is just a convenient distraction.

  7. Thanks for this, Eric. I haven't been out to any of the consultations, but it's nice to know what I missed.

    "Sacrificing somewhere else seems a common theme." -- Common theme throughout the city and a lot of the decisions made, not just for Lansdowne Live!. Good point.

  8. I saw the same cast of characters at the meeting at City Hall as I saw in a rally of anti-LLive supporters(friends of Lansdowne) in the summer.

    After having bad publicity over their behaviour in the first meeting, they are now trying to pretend that this is not the same NIMBY group that has been driving the oppostion to the plan all along.

    That these mostly retired Glebians can monopolize media attention and hijack the process such that no one else can get heard, and intimidate City Council says a lot about our city and a lot about our council.

  9. GoGades: I hope you are right and Bayview is a long shot option. Probably, having just been to the meeting and thinking about it, made me consider it more imminent than it is.

    WJM: Toronto's baseball stadium is well integrated into adjacent bldgs. Best of all the hotel creates traffic on those rather bleak terraces on the upper level. The last time I visited the BigOwe in Mtl I thought it totally bleak and isolated from the neighborhood. Ditto Los Angeles hockey is supposed to be revitalizing the core but it seemed to be isolated in a wasteland of parking lots and overwhealming in the garmet district. Same thing for one I saw in NJ. The Notre Dame stadium was pleasantly integrated with buildings as I recall. I havent seen Vancouver's dome for several years, last time I was there all the lower level lands around it were a bleak wasteland of parking lots. I am encouraged that some places are able to get it right. Could Ottawa?

    Betsy: I thought one of the better features of Lansdowne was the continuation of the storefronts, the urban fabric, along Bank Street in front of the stadium. Right now, it makes a big hole in continuity, a dead spot separating Glebe from OSouth. I also thought it wouldn't be out of place to have put a taller building or two above these storefronts.

  10. WJM: Toronto's baseball stadium is well integrated into adjacent bldgs. Best of all the hotel creates traffic on those rather bleak terraces on the upper level. The last time I visited the BigOwe in Mtl I thought it totally bleak and isolated from the neighborhood.

    And it is. But the hockey stadium in Montral is well-integrated into the surrounding fabric. And, of what I see of LL, it would be, too. Certainly better than the abomination that is Kanata Memorial Eyesore, or the not-much-better and vacant baseball stadium out by the Queensway offramp.

    I also like the LL extension of the Glebe street wall south. It mitigates the damage done, and the opportunity lost, by that corrugated steel can thingy on the other side of Bank. For the life of me, I can't figure out why the Glebe merchants are opposed to something that would add life and traffic and customers to their neighbourhood. (The landlord might not like the competition for retail lease opportunities, though.... could that be what's driving it from the end of merchants who are also property owners?)

  11. WJM - the common theme that I see when I read the literature is that smaller stadiums are able to integrate. Big behemoths are not - thus a civic centre could fit in nicely. It gets harder with a Frank Clair.

    Eric - I take issue with your tone that all those who oppose Lansdowne automatically thinkthre should be a stadium at Bayview. I oppose LL, but not for the reason that there is a stadium there. I think it is a bad deal for the city and for my neighbourhood. I am aghast that they are going to reduce the size of the Farmers Market and bring in an American Multinational (Whole Foods).

    As regards transportation, I am more worried about the day to day transportation requirements. In addition to the 40,000 square foot Whole Foods, there will be an 8 screen cinema AND 200,000 square feet of retail. Yet they estimate only an increase of 100 cars per hour? That is, what, 1 customer for every 1000 square feet per hour? I fully support the creation of business along bank Street and a hotel. But the scale of this project is ridiculous.

  12. Chris B: not everyone opposed to LL wants a stadium at Bayview. However, all those people said nothing at last nights meeting; only Bayview was repeatedly advocated, by LL opponents and the senior politician Cullen.

    It is regretably difficult to separate those opposed to the stadium at Lansdowne for planning purposes from those questioning the finances and procedures. I suspect if Lansdowne is killed, those questioning the deal will disappear and show little or no interest in a deal elsewhere. To be clearer: picking apart the deal and attacking the proceedure are tools for many of those opposed to repairing or keeping a stadium at Lansdowne.

  13. An accurate description of an unfortunate display of elitism by the Glebe-ites.

    I'm a supporter of football and loved being able to look at the surroundings when the Riders/Renegades were losing.

    Something needs to be done with the site. If not a stadium, what?

    Would the Glebe-ites support 21-storey apartment buildings for social housing so they could have another park?

    And what's wrong with the Arboretum?

  14. It is refreshing to read some sound, objective analysis of Lansdowne Live and the process surrounding it.

    Bayview is a non-starter for a stadium location for several reasons. Perhaps the biggest is the fact that it sits on contaminated land. At last night's Orleans meeting, Kirkpatrick estimated that it could cost upwards of $60 million or more just to de-contaminate the soil at Bayview. Then you have the cost of demolishing Frank Clair stadium, and ameliorate the land it is on. There's another $30 million at least. Therefore, you are about $100 million in before you even build the stadium, which would come at a cost of about $200 million if the estimates in Winnipeg for their new stadium are any guideline. So, at least $300 million for the Bayview Stadium, with no possibility of retail around it to help with the costs. A complete non-starter from every possible angle.

    I suspect that Councillor Cullen isn't really serious about Bayview. After all, he doesn't particularly care if the city ever gets a stadium. If he is serious, then God help us all if he ever gets his way with a city budget.

  15. This is a brilliant piece on the Lansdowne Live debate. The opposition to the proposal is well-organized and funded, but there are some pretty serious holes in the arguments that they are making. As a Glebe resident, my concern is that these are the spokespeople for our neighbourhood, when the surveys and earlier consultations indicate that the real opinions of residents are much more diverse.

    I would love to see you repeat some of these comments in an editorial piece or letter to the editor.

  16. I live in the Glebe and I can see Frank Clair stadium from my bedroom window.

    I don't mind so much having a stadium close by, but I do mind having a sea of asphalt on such prime public space. I was very excited last year when change seemed imminent.

    When I look at the site plan for LL, it doesn't look too bad. Probably better than the status quo. But the LL gang have managed to frame this as a debate between LL and the status quo. It shouldn't be. It didn't start out that way.

    Before LL there was a city-supported consultation underway that was to set parameters for a right-to-build competition (erroneously called a design competition by Councillor Doucet and his supporters). Instead we have just one proposal, being sold to us by the City. That makes it harder to know if it's a good deal.

    There is a lot to criticize about the "business deal" in LL. Unfortunately, many of my neighbours are getting all NIMBY and grasping at whatever criticism they can think of, whether they truly believe it or not. They don't care, as long as LL is killed. This is why sites like that remain empty for so long.

    Gozzygirl: yes, I would like to see social housing at Lansdowne (I wrote that in my comment card at the consultation), but no building should be 21-storeys. Something to scale with the mid-rises across the street would make more sense.

  17. WJM - the common theme that I see when I read the literature is that smaller stadiums are able to integrate. Big behemoths are not - thus a civic centre could fit in nicely. It gets harder with a Frank Clair.

    Frank Clair is hardly a big behemoth, and given that it's been there for decades, the "integration" could have happened by now.

    The plans, as best as I can see them (would someone at LL PLEASE post detailed drawings?) seem to do a decent job of sewing the remaining stitches needed to mesh the stadium with the rest of the urban fabric.

  18. CFL football has failed financially twice already. Why should Ottawa taxpayers be asked to shell out money for a half-baked business plan that puts most of the financial risk on them? This plan is nonsensical - the traffic congestion will be excessive and many people will not want to come back after there first visit. This is not a Glebe NIMBY issue; this is a not with my tax money (NWMTM) issue!

  19. The glory days of the CFL are gone. We go to Kanata to support our Senators why not go to Kanata to support CFL and Soccer. Lansdown Live gentlemen check your inflated egos at the door get together with Mr. Melnyk and build adjacent to Scotia Bank Place. He got us the World Juniors and made them an overwhelming success he has the proven track record!

  20. Well, I'm opposed to the plan because the financing is fishy, and because I don't think this city needs to pour any more money into another stadium at all.

    I live a block away from the Bayview site, and the idea of a bankrupt stadium there is truly depressing. Without more retail or housing there, even if it succeeds it will be a ghost town most of the time, and I'm worried about the probable destruction of LaRoche park as well. I would love there to be some kind of development there, a grocery store would be a dream come true, but even city offices mixed with housing would be wonderful as well. Do you think if we let the stadium come here, they would have a fancy plan like the landsdowne live one? Not likely; that plan is so detailed since they have to sell it to the Glebe. We'd get a big concrete box slapped down with acres of parking, because "no one lives there".

  21. I was hoping to hear your take on this issue, I'd suggest you copy this piece to the city website http://lansdowne.econsultation.ca/ if you haven't commented already.

    As a Centertown taxpayer and resident who's been lucky enough to live in several cities around the world I was very pleased when the LL proposal was presented, and thought with some tweaking it would be quite amenable to most residents. I've been pretty disheartened by some of the anti-development arguments, parking, green space, "shifty" developers out for a quick buck. I suggested as just one example of how we could handle event day transport problems, OC Transpo might run buses from Park and Rides basically letting folks off just at the Q'way exit leaving them a 20 minute walk, to which the response was "really, a 20 minute walk?" Another responder thought running special bus routes was basically beyond the ability of the City. I just shake my head at the "can't-do" attitude. Bayview would be my first choice; a chance to develop another central part of the city and sparing the Glebites the horror of thousands of unwashed Ottawans descending on their urban oasis, but Bayview ain't happening primarily because of the soil contamination issue. So do we give LL a shot, or just let the site sit there and rot? If we have a City Council with a positive vision for the city they'll vote yes. Doug

  22. This particular proposal is awful for the city. The city (and we the taxpayers) get stuck with all of the risk, while the developers get a sweetheart deal.

    That is the only reason one needs to oppose it.

    The 130M required to be borrowed by the city is for the stadium, the developers contribute nothing to it. The other development is to keep the stadium viable as a going concern. If it can't turn a profit or at least operate at a small loss (it does provide a social benefit afterall) then why are we building it? The lost opportunity cost of 130M for other projects in place of this white elephant is staggering!

  23. Those saying that taxpayers get stuck with all the risk truly don't understand the nature of this deal. It is correct to say that the developers get first crack at the profit, but with that, they are also assuming the risk. The deal does exactly what a PPP is intended to do - transfer the chance of profit/risk of loss to the private sector, and cap the city's contribution.

  24. The city doesn't need a stadium. If Melnyk or OSEG want one, let them pony up the $100M or so - but they won't do that, because the stadium is merely a way to slither in and either exploit the ground at Lansdowne or out by the Palladium.

    We're being sold a bill of goods. We could be rid of the white elephant of the stadium, revamp the civic centre, build a parking garage, open a year-round farmers market in Aberdeen and turn the rest of the area into greenspace for the same that we'll give to OSEG.

    So here's a question: Which option is better for the city? A refurbished civic centre with sports fields for amateur sports in an enlarged central park (too bad that name is taken) together with a farmer's market, or a retail emporium with a seldom-used stadium and eight more screens to show Hollywood's latest dreck?