On Friday, one of the Letters to the Editor in the Ottawa Citizen was reflecting on the success of Grey Cup weekend and how that means we should build a mega-shelter in Vanier. Seriously.
I’m going to ignore the Vanier part. I want to pull out the Grey Cup/Lansdonwe analysis:
The Grey Cup festivities were a resounding success for the organizers. Football fans from all over the country were both surprised and delighted by the tremendous show put on during Grey Cup week. The urban park adjacent to the field was flooded with tourists and locals alike, all of whom were clearly impressed. OSEG should be extremely proud of the results of their efforts, over the years, to bring professional football back to Ottawa and to a venue that is the envy of the CFL.
OSEG was right. The “Friends of Lansdowne” were wrong. If one were to visit Lansdowne now, it would be hard to understand how the “Friends” could have wasted so much time and resources fighting such an important revitalization project.
Look, let’s ignore the foolishness of this. Let’s ignore that using the success of one day that might happen once every ten years as a metric for a massive urban development is ridiculous. Let’s ignore that Lansdowne is dead in off-peak hours (let’s call it the Tuesday Morning Test). Let’s ignore that yesterday afternoon it was a ghost town–yesterday, at about 3:30 or 4:00 on a Saturday. Let’s ignore that the Friends of Lansdowne weren’t just saying that the proposal was bad, but that it’d be bad for the surrounding neighbourhoods…and consider the store closings, empty shops and the recent stores opening up along Bank Street, it’s pretty clear they were right. And let’s ignore that judging city-building efforts based on what some tourists from Saskatchewan* think during the couple of days they happen to be in town is pure folly.
No, ignore all that. Ignore that Lansdowne was supposed to be an (ugh) “urban village”. Ignore that it’s not making money. Ignore that OSEG isn’t providing the proper oversight. Ignore the empty stores and offices, dead trees, bashed bollards and broken play structure.
Ignore it all.
I was at Lansdowne a few times over Grey Cup weekend (including at the game), and, yes, it was quite fun. So, sure let’s try to replicate it. But do you know what we did to make it so successful?
We turned the public and private spaces over to people.
We shut it down to cars.
We provided people with unlimited bus rides for $1.
So, fine. The Grey Cup was great and should be the model for all urban development going forward. Let’s do this.
*No disrespect to residents of Saskatchewan; I just chose you because of the impressive number of GreenWhites fans I saw around. Well-represented, for sure.