Setting The Lansdowne Record Straight

The City of Ottawa release on the Lansdowne finance committee meeting this week is below. The Bulldog’s comments are in boldface:

The Finance and Corporate Services Committee approved a recommended (by whom?) model to procure the design and construction of a new event centre (which offers much less than a new CHL arena in Gatineau which cost $160 million less than the new Lansdowne events centre) and north-side stands at Lansdowne (which has been improved by taking off the roof so that fans can get soaked in October and November. A novel way to increase attendance. Also the stadium looks like two separate building projects. One side architecturally interesting, the other just stands. Visually, the new stadium is a mess).

Following Council’s approval of a concept plan in November that would see the existing city-owned north-side stands and arena demolished and replaced with a new event centre, new north-side stands and a mixed-use development where the Civic Centre is now located (didn’t they just say that in the previous paragraph), the City studied a range of approaches before recommending a tried-and-true procurement model, known as design-bid-build (a good old tried-and-true for a city that has screwed up every major building project it has undertaken this century) (oh yes, and on the subject of bidding, where is the auditor general’s probe of the Trillium Line procurement which slipped off her workplan). This model would award two distinct, fixed-price contracts: one for design and one for construction (the release omits the cost which is $419 million in a high-interest rate period). The City has traditionally used this model to procure large-scale infrastructure (with interesting outcomes all), and it aligns with the Ottawa LRT Public Inquiry (here’s good PR … mention the LRT inquiry … that puts a shiver in taxpayers) recommendation to opt for proven approaches when investing public funds in large-scale projects (that there was an LRT inquiry tells you everything you need to know about the city’s sorry history on major projects).

The preferred approach represents the best option in terms of cost and timelines (no doubt just like the Trillium Line). It requires preparation of a detailed design first, which will help determine final construction costs. The design would also inform how the new north-side stands will connect with the planned retail space (more shopping centre … what could go wrong?), which will be important as the city prepares for the future disposal of air rights (the new waterfall … sorry tricklefall). The City is proposing to sell or lease those rights for the space above and below the retail building. The City’s financial contribution to the project will be paid for, in part (yes, the other part is by using property taxes that every other private project pays to contribute to basic city infrastructure … these go to Lansdowne at Lansdowne), by the disposal of these rights (if they can be sold).

The Committee also approved a $20-million line of credit to be taken out by the Lansdowne Partnership with a City guarantee, to be repaid by the Partnership (ah yes, tapping the City of Ottawa Bank … this just in, Canada has private banks that lend money that other developers use … but Lansdowne is special). This is a temporary risk mitigation measure to maintain operations at Lansdowne through the end of construction (risk, oh brother. The city pays and the partner reaps the gravy). This will be particularly important during the anticipated two-year construction period for the new stands as that will temporarily reduce revenues being generated due to the loss of the existing stands and retail space (a lot of businesses cover their own losses).

As the City and its partners move ahead with detailed design, staff would report to Council later next year on the final package of approvals, including the final construction price (at least $419 million), final air rights value (probably zippo), and any required funding strategy amendments prior to construction (in other words, more taxpayer money).

(There you have it, election promises, campaign promises repaid and delivered. There was no value in bringing logic to the Lansdowne issue … the fix was in).

(And let’s not forget the gruesome conflict of interest engendered by the city by partnering with developers who will eventually appear in front of city planning committee with new projects in the future. Will you turn down your partner for a project?)

Boldface above by Ken Gray


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