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COMMENT: Banning cars at Lansdowne Park plaza a great step forward

TD Place and Aberdeen Pavilion. (Photo/Ross Dunn, used under a creative commons licence)

Lansdowne Park has always had a duressed relationship with the automobile. It never felt like the right place for them and watching drivers blunder around always took away from my own enjoyment of what is otherwise a really great urban place.

I remember having brunch at Sunset Grill one day and seeing some guy in an SUV park across the street, on a crosswalk, and then go into the bank for about 10 minutes. I guess it’s fine that he parked right on the bumps that are meant to help people with visual impairment find the crosswalk, because he had his hazards on. Or, when people would think the open paved area next to the Aberdeen Pavilion was a parking lot despite a multitude of “no parking” signs around. Honestly, letting cars into this space would only have been a good idea if the goal was to ruin the whole experience.

Joanne Chianello at CBC recently wrote a column where she said: “The old argument that the Lansdowne Park redevelopment is better than the asphalt parking lot it replaced is far too low a bar.” I would posit that we just turned Lansdowne Park into a nicer-looking parking lot that also has some restaurants. By allowing cars everywhere, we deprived ourselves of having a unique downtown place and instead got something pretty ordinary.

But now the bollards are up and no cars will be prowling around Princess Patricia Way, significantly reducing the car presence around the plaza — now renamed to “Casino Lac Leamy Plaza at Lansdowne”. I think that’s a great step forward to creating a better experience at Lansdowne Park, plus it is another achievement in the long-term project of making Ottawa less car-dependent.

Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), which operates Lansdowne, is trying to bring more people out to the area. The move to block off car access is part of that goal, along with a $250,000 investment to bring more amenities to the space as well as infrastructure for live performance events. There will also be an annual fund for performances, and artists in the community will be able to take advantage of the space when it is not otherwise being used.

“This brings a new energy to Lansdowne and our community,” said Mark Goudie, president and CEO of OSEG, in a news release. “Casino Lac-Leamy Plaza at Lansdowne will be a multi-purpose area. It will be a pleasant rest stop for cyclists, pedestrians and shoppers; an event space for community and regional performers, and it will deliver a better experience for patrons of the Ottawa Farmers’ Market. It could also become the next Jurassic Park-style gathering place to watch major events on a big screen.”

This can be yet another great example of the benefits of removing cars from public places and focusing more on the other ways people use the space. As we see every year with Bank Street closing to cars for Glow Fair, and as the city’s pilot project on William Street showed, you really can have fantastic results with this approach.


Devyn Barrie

Devyn Barrie is the publisher and editor of OttawaStart.com. He currently studies math and physics at the University of Ottawa, and holds a diploma in journalism from Algonquin College.