The Ottawa Glebe & Mall

Welcome to the new ESI Glebe & Mail's great grey op ed page. Another time, we'll deal with Mayor Larry's diabolical hiring of Jasmine MacDonnell, thus placing the ESIs in an ethical quandary. Right now, the Lansdowne Park issue affects us, and Ottawa, in bigger ways.

This week, Lansdowne Live's local powerhouse developer triad presented its fine-tuned plan to grab and commercialize a large and prized piece of public land in the Glebe.

Subsequent council and public debate has again highlighted the projects' flaws.

Last fall, the developers sent an unsolicited bid to city councillors and staff, claimed it to be "revenue neutral", then, in a particularly ballsy move, gave them a tight deadline to respond. The most blatant pressure tactic in the book. Administration and council bit and swallowed enthusiastically, when they should have raised a collective eyebrow, then continued with open public consultation and an open design competition.

The mayor and certain councillors proclaimed that Lansdowne Stadium was crumbling, the attached park was a blight, and we needed to do something fast. But was a "Do Anything As Long as it's Quick" strategy for Lansdowne Park the "Right Thing" for all of us? Ummm, not so much.

From Casa Coyote's jaundiced vantage point, the proposal seems to be about nabbing scads of public green space and turning it essentially private. This week's plan shows, riding on the dubious coattails of a football stadium upgrade and few sops of green space, a gigantic "commercial development" that boils down to (another damn) big-box shopping mall. Oh, and a whack of condos that council stated it didn't want in there.

The space is public, and precious. It shouldn't be only self-diagnosed movers and shakers who drive what happens there, it should be all kinds of ordinary people across the region.

Let's put aside for a moment the appropriateness of rolling the dice on (another) Canadian Football League franchise after three failures. And whether we should even give the CFL a toehold in the debate, when it has no team in town anymore. And whether, even granting the above, a stadium should be rebuilt at Lansdowne, instead of somewhere else with, say, more space for parking and better street access. Forget those picayune bits.

What I'm sayin' is, I've never met developers that didn't deeply believe that they could vastly improve green and open space by filling it up with ugly buildings that make them scads of cash. It's their mindset, and they honestly don't seem to understand any other viewpoint. But we should not be enabling their no-doubt-interesting pathologies here.

I think it gets down to the fact, that, in its haste to grab a dangled lure, council slewed away from an open, fair and transparent public development process toward an ethical shoulder. Maybe the ditch.

Lansdowne is the kind of city-changing thing you want to do right, not quick. Frankly, I don't give a rat's heinie if the proposal is nominally revenue neutral - the Lansdowne space is the kind of historic public jewel a city council should never, ever try to cheap out on. Or give away.

Just so ya know, Randall Denley of the Petfinder solidly backs the current project. And just so ya know, whenever we coyotes start thinkin' that maybe he's on the right side of an issue, we reflexively pat ourselves down to check for signs of the apocalypse. He's usually that wrong.

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