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Council approves crucial procedural step for Lansdowne 2.0 plan

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Ottawa's city council has approved a crucial step for the multi-million dollar Lansdowne 2.0 project.

Council voted to move forward with approving the procurement delivery model of the $419.5-million project, with 19 councillors voting for and six voting against. Mayor Mark Sutcliffe was among the yes votes.

Earlier this month, the city's finance committee voted 10-2 on approving the crucial step for the project, which will determine the design and construction of a new 5,500-seat event centre and new north side stands at TD Place Stadium. 

Council was also asked to approve an additional $4 million to prepare design drawings for both the north side stands and the event centre and to cover costs for outside assistance, including legal advice, from experts.

The city hired consulting firm KPMG to look at several delivery models. Staff recommended a "design-bid-build" model for the construction of the event centre and north side stands. 

A design-bid-build process means a design is first submitted and approved via a fixed-price contract and then another fixed-price contract is awarded to a builder, using the approved design. KPMG describes this process as a "traditional delivery model".

Staff say the Lansdowne partnership will continue with the management and progression of the design through the current project architects. A construction tender is expected to be issued between April and September of 2025.

"The reasonable time to initiate the Request for Offer (RFO) process is Q1 2025. The timing would afford the best opportunity for the Ontario Land Tribunal Zoning By-law and Official Plan Amendment appeal to be adjudicated, allowing the RFO to go out for bidders if the OLT decision is granted in the City’s favour," the report says. "The Q1 2025 timeline would also enable the preferred bid to be reported back to Council in Q3/Q4 2025 accompanied by the final tender price for the construction of the Event Centre and North Side Stands, and amended (Lansdowne Partnership Plan) agreements." 

Council also approved a $20 million line of credit to fund cashflow requirements through to the end of the Lansdowne 2.0 construction period.

"This is because cashflow deficiencies will likely increase during construction, mainly as a result of the loss of revenues currently being generated by the 14,000-seat North Stadium Stands and 41,000 sq. ft. retail space adjacent to the arena/north stadium stands complex over the two-year period when they are demolished and subsequently rebuilt," a report prepared for council says.

The major redevelopment has been contentious, with dozens of community groups opposing the project. Committee meetings about every step of this process have featured numerous public speakers. It took two days of meetings totalling more than 16 hours to hear from concerned residents prior to the final approval of the project last November.

The first redevelopment of Lansdowne Park did not produce the financial returns the city was expecting, and a 2023 report suggested the public-private partnership between the city and the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group might never be profitable.

Council approved the $419.5 million project despite the opposition and despite a jump in cost. The price tag went from an estimated $332 million in 2022 to $419.5 million in 2023, blamed on inflation and rising interest rates. The new event centre will cost $249.6 million, while the north side stands will cost $169.5 million. The project will be funded by $213.7 million in debt, with debt servicing at $16.4 million per year.

Speaking to reporters after the council meeting, Sutcliffe defended council's handling of the file.

"We've been listening to residents every step of the way on Lansdowne Park and last November we had a very lengthy committee meeting. I don't even remember how long it was, but it was long, and that's okay because that's what we're here for. We're here to listen to residents," he said. "But we also need to make decisions and I think a very clear decision was taken by council today to move forward with this project with a very specific approach to the procurement process, one that was recommended by staff. Those decisions are never easy and there are a lot of factors to consider, but I think we made the right decision."

After the project was approved, the Glebe Community Association appealed the zoning bylaws required for Lansdowne 2.0 to go forward to the Ontario Land Tribunal. A date for the hearing has yet to be determined.

Lansdowne 2.0 will be built in three phases: the new event centre, to begin this year and be complete by 2027; the new north side stands, to be finished by 2029; and the two new residential towers, set to be completed by 2034.

--With files from CTV News Ottawa's William Eltherington. Josh Pringle and Leah Larocque

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