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UPDATE: Ottawa chapter defends Lansdowne Park commons, March 24

The Ottawa chapter of the Council of Canadians is organizing a public forum in defence of Lansdowne Park on Thursday March 24 at 7 pm at the Knox Presbyterian Church (120 Lisgar at Elgin Street). Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow and Board member Steven Shrybman will be speaking.

Lansdowne Park

Lansdowne Park

Lansdowne Park is a 40-acre park-space in Ottawa, located on Bank Street and adjacent to the Rideau Canal. It includes the Frank Clair Stadium, where the Canadian Football League team the Ottawa Rough Riders played until they disbanded in 1996. The lower section of the stands were demolished in 2008 when cracks were discovered in the concrete structure. Lansdowne Park also houses the Aberdeen Pavillion, an exhibition hall built in 1898 for the Central Canada Exhibition agricultural shows. It was designated a National Historic Site in 1983.

Local MP Paul Dewar has stated, “We are fortunate to have, at the heart of our city, a remarkable common space in the form of Lansdowne Park. Lansdowne has played a significant role in the history and culture of our city for more than a hundred years… Lansdowne Park is truly one of Ottawa’s treasures and future redevelopment will have a lasting effect on not only the park, but the community at large. It is important that the public be given a real opportunity to participate in the planning process in order for the new Lansdowne Park to accurately reflect our city and its people.”

But something else is happening. In 2007, the City of Ottawa started a review to redevelop Lansdowne Park. In 2008, Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), were awarded a new CFL franchise, contingent on securing a stadium in which to play. OSEG proposed a public-private partnership with the city to rebuild the stadium and later unveiled plans to redevelop the grounds with two residential highrises and 350,000 square feet of stores, restaurants and bars to finance the reconstruction and annual upkeep of the site. Ottawa City Council decided to enter into a partnership with the OSEG group and abandoned its own review.

This plan has been opposed by many Ottawa residents, including the Friends of Lansdowne Park. As noted on their website, “Friends of Lansdowne is a grassroots coalition of citizens who care about the future of Lansdowne Park. Our goal is to promote Lansdowne Park as a sustainable, accessible public space for the benefit of all. We support revitalization of Lansdowne Park which is fair, open, fiscally responsible and consistent with the site’s heritage values.”

The plan faces court challenges and a review before the Ontario Municipal Board before it can proceed to construction. In terms of the court challenge, CBC reported last June that, “The City of Ottawa will be breaking its own procurement bylaws if it finalizes a deal with a group of Ottawa businessmen to redevelop Lansdowne Park without competitive bidding, an Ottawa lawyer says. ‘Council has an obligation to comply with its rules … in this case rules about procurement that make it virtually a requirement in all cases to engage in some kind of competitive bidding process,’ said Steven Shrybman, a lawyer with the firm Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP who specializes in public interest litigation.”

The poster for the Ottawa chapter event with Maude Barlow and Steven Shrybman is at http://www.keepandshare.com/doc/2662529/lansdowne-pdf-march-13-2011-7-46-am-107k?da=y.