Step closer to park refit

Lansdowne Live partners Jeff Hunt (left) and Roger Greenberg are all smiles at Ottawa City Hall on...

Lansdowne Live partners Jeff Hunt (left) and Roger Greenberg are all smiles at Ottawa City Hall on Wednesday. (Sun Media/Andre Forget)

SHANE ROSS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:44 AM ET

In the next few years, you might be picnicking on green grass in Lansdowne Park where asphalt now lies. Or you might be checking into a fancy hotel or watching a CFL game in a newly renovated stadium.

But you won't be shopping at a Wal-Mart.

City council made it clear the park's integrity was non-negotiable when it passed a motion yesterday with a 14-9 vote to partner with a group of local businessmen and finally come up with a vision for the beloved jewel along the Rideau Canal.

"We have to come up with a plan that the public will say 'you got it right,' " said Coun. Diane Deans, whose amending motion outlining strict guidelines for the development paved the way for council to pass Coun. Rick Chiarelli's main motion.

After the councillors, one by one, gave their yeas and nays and it was declared that the motion passed, photographers and TV cameras zoomed in to get a reaction from Roger Greenberg and Jeff Hunt, two of the proponents behind the Lansdowne Live bid who were sitting in the gallery.

A high five, fist pump, anything.

After an exhausting 13-month ordeal that culminated in two long days of council debate, all they could muster was a staged handshake.

"I think it's a terrific day," Greenberg said. "It's not the end day, there's still a lot of work ahead of us."

Beginning today, the Lansdowne group will have 60 days to work with city staff on a plan for the park. That will be followed by 21 days of public consultation. Council also approved a motion allowing the city manager to spend up to $200,000 negotiating the deal.

"We know this won't happen unless it's a good deal for taxpayers," Hunt said. "We've got to blend in the Glebe, not the Glebe blend in with us."

AQUARIUM

Key proposals in the Lansdowne group's plan would see Frank Clair Stadium and the Civic Centre renovated (at a cost of $97 million), and could include an aquarium, hotel and stores.

The victory for Lansdowne likely spells the end for Senators owner Eugene Melnyk's competing proposal to build a stadium near Scotiabank Place for an MLS team.

Kanata North Coun. Marianne Wilkinson tried to keep it alive. She had tabled a motion to give Melnyk 30 acres of city-owned land, $17 million in cash, and support in soliciting the other levels of government for funding. Councillors huddled in groups, BlackBerries buzzing, trying to hammer out a deal that would see both motions passed. But when the Lansdowne motion passed, Senators Sports & Entertainment COO Cyril Leeder asked her to defer her motion until after the city's new plan with the Lansdowne group goes before council.

"It didn't make any sense for us to be working on that while they were trying to solve the Lansdowne puzzle," Leeder said. "Roger asked me, would we stand down for 60 days while they had the chance and we said absolutely. I don't think our city is ready for two stadiums."

And while Melnyk, in a statement, expressed "profound disappointment," he said, "With today's direction by council, Mr. Greenberg, Mr. Hunt, Mr. Ruddy and Mr. Shenkman now have a chance to do something great for the city and transform Lansdowne Park into one of Canada's great public spaces. And while I continue to disagree with the strategic placement of a stadium at Lansdowne Park adjacent to the UNESCO World Heritage designated Rideau Canal, I have too much passion for this city to stand in the way of a project that will create positive and significant change."


Videos

Photos