Although this commentary applies to a specific location, project challenges like this are not isolated to this city. That said, it is disappointing that in a national capital the debut couldn’t have been more impressive.
Today was the official opening of the newly refurbished and designed Lansdowne Park in south central Ottawa, Ontario. Perhaps portentously, the weather was unusually cool and damp for this time of year.
Although the stadium, being used by the city’s pro football and soccer teams, has been completed and is looking in fine form (picture 1), the look of the balance of the area overall ranges from O.K. to blandly incomplete (picture 2). Yes, there is very green sod, plus flowers, lots of seating, and even water fountains. Today, these were open for traversing or resting. There are also sections for youth activities, as well as open areas such as for band performances. Naturally, there are booths of commerce, ranging from fresh food to handicrafts. The venerable central pavilion has been cleaned up to a slightly elevated appearance and freshness.
However, there is also a pervasive sense of incompleteness. None of the restaurants or stores or related enterprises seem close to being open. One could even miss seeing the ticket office for the two teams, part of the background blandness. The walking corridors are clean and wide enough, but non-descript, only minimally inviting, with no effort to dress them up with décor or plants.
There was no look of ceremony.
One would have thought that the official opening of such a long-term, and especially long-awaited, project would be unveiled with some degree of ‘WOW’ factor. So far, that is definitively lacking.
Then, there’s the parking situation: with no on-site parking, we had to park blocks away, although there was no major event, and as noted no traffic draw due to un-open on-site businesses. Given that the intent is to draw more foot traffic, and for more extended periods than applied to the previous incarnation of the Lansdowne area, an even greater parking schism is on the horizon. The city is providing a park ‘n ride shuttle for major events, and this has questionable success so far. What’s it going to be like when the area is fully open, with no special transportation generally, but mounting parking and driving issues?
For those who think public transit is the all-purpose answer, hopefully they’re prepared to help support the new businesses. Those of us who live outside the area will only put up with a certain amount of commuter inconvenience. One hopes, sooner rather than later, the experience of the new Lansdowne Park will be sufficiently engaging to make the commuting travails worth it.