Lansdowne redevelopment on track, officials say

One year into one of Ottawa’s most significant development projects ever, the half-billion-dollar renovation of Lansdowne Park seems to be proceeding as planned.

Work has been underway since last summer to rebuild the stadium there into a modern facility suitable for viewing professional football and soccer, along with upgrading the attached hockey arena and creating an array of new residential, office and retail development at this central Ottawa location.

Lansdowne Park, located in the upscale Glebe district, has historically been an important cultural site in the nation’s capital, though this role has waned in recent years, and its aging and under-used facilities have become an eyesore.

It was the longtime home of the Canadian Football League’s Ottawa Rough Riders, which folded in 1996, and housed a short-term successor, the Ottawa Renegades, which played at the stadium from 2002 to 2006. The stadium is being rebuilt to house another CFL franchise, the Ottawa Redblacks, in 2014 as well as the Ottawa Fury FC of the North American Soccer League.

The attached ice arena, the Civic Centre, was the initial home for the Ottawa Senators when the franchise returned to the National Hockey League in 1992. The Civic Centre will continue to house Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s after renovations.

Lansdowne Park under construction in July of 2013. Image from the City of Ottawa website.

Beyond sports

Providing facilities for sporting events is only part of this redevelopment. Work recently began on an 18-acre urban park, which will replace the parking lot that will no longer be needed after an underground parking garage for more than 1,300 vehicles is added.

Beyond that, the site will be host to 360,000 square feet of retail space, 100,000 square feet of office space and 280 residential units.

Roger Greenberg, a partner with Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which is working with the City of Ottawa on the project and owns the sports teams that will play there, said despite some construction delays this summer due to weather, the project remains on track.

“Generally speaking, I think we’re on schedule, “ he said. “There are always issues when you’re digging underground. You like to catch up once you get going.”

Marco Manconi, the city’s manager of design and construction for Lansdowne, echoed that, telling Property Biz Canada that all timelines set out on the city’s website still apply.

Greenberg is also CEO of The Minto Group, which is developing the office and residential space at Lansdowne.

“You’ve heard of the expression ‘live, work, play,’ ” Greenberg said of Lansdowne. “That’s literally what’s going to take place here, to try to have animation 365 days a year, 24/7.”

Greenberg said construction of the residential and office components will start later this year. Availability for these spaces will begin late next year with completion expected by the end of 2015.

The residences will consist of two condominium towers — one 18 storeys and the other 10 floors — and street-level townhouses across from an existing residential neighbourhood.

Visit the City of Ottawa Landsdowne Park website for an enlarged version of this image

Strong housing demand

Greenberg said residential units are starting at about $300,000, and “we’ve had very good sales to date,” though he would not provide precise figures.

Barry Nabatian, director of market research at Tanner-Shore & Associates, an Ottawa real estate consultancy group, said his sources indicate that the majority of condominium units planned for Lansdowne have been sold, and he called it “the most successful (sale of) condominiums in Ottawa’s history.”

“There’s a lot of negative sentiment about the condominium market right now in Ottawa, and then when you see things like this you say, ‘What’s the problem?’ ” Nabatian said.

The office building will have a ground-level retail space topped off with five floors of offices. Greenberg estimated there will be between 500 and 700 employees in this building, depending on the types of businesses operating there, none of which have been announced.

Greenberg noted Minto’s experience with other mixed-use developments.

“We certainly have experience doing this in several projects,” Greenberg said. “We have mixed-used developments much more so in Toronto than in Ottawa.”

The retail space is being created by Trinity Development Group. Its CEO, John Ruddy, is also among the partners in the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group. Sporting Life, Whole Foods Market, Empire Theatres and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO, the provincially owned retailer of alcoholic beverages) have been confirmed as retail tenants so far.

Major-scale development

Greenberg said the overall Lansdowne refurbishment will cost about $500 million. Nabatian, however, said that could be a “conservative” estimate, given the enormity of the project.

“When you look at all of this together, and the diversity of the entire development in addition to the sports facility, there has never been anything of this magnitude done in Ottawa,” he said, adding that it surpasses even the recently renamed Canadian Tire Centre (formerly ScotiaBank Place) in the west end of the city, which opened as the Ottawa Palladium in 1996 to become the permanent home of the Ottawa Senators.

“The Palladium is really a single thing; it’s just a sports-and-entertainment facility,” Nabatian said, adding that Lansdowne is becoming the multi-functional type of centre that early investors in the Palladium envisioned to for that west-end suburban complex but were never able to bring to fruition.

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