LeBetter Flats (viii) on the role of lobbyists

It would be nice, but naive, to think that the two proponents for redevelopment of the remaining portion of LeBreton Flats simply put out their best proposals and the NCC gets to choose Eeny vs Meeny (Miny and Mo having not come to the party).

The NCC conspicuously led off its public presentations with a report from its fairness judges. I saw gender bias at play there, but they I am prone to conspiracy theories. It is, after all, 2016.

But the floorshow at the War Museum and events prior, and subsequent, are well populated by lobbyists. One of whom assured me of exactly what certain federal cabinet ministers knew of the proposals. Oh, is this decision a NCC planning based one or a political one at cabinet level? Is there a difference?

Sometimes the role of lobbyists is apparent. The Devcore proposal has a science and technology “pavilion” on their mall. With stuff on loan from the Science and Tech Museum. It sure looked, smelled, walked and talked like a placeholder for a new Science and Tech museum pending funding for a new museum building. Said funding being a result of … lobbying. It isn’t exactly unobvious that the Devcore group has a number of prominent Montreal families with connections. Just as the Rendez-vous group is Toronto based and well connected. Are their families back home enjoying a quiet January in Barbados or are they lobbying their provincial power bases to lobby their federal power bases?

Both developers showed a new Central Library, on opposite corners of the Booth-Albert intersection, connected directly into Pimisi Station. They will need to “sell” the merits of their proposals to the City, which is where the well-connected lobbyists come in. And don’t forget the potential role of the National Library. A project of this size, with spin off jobs to architects and landscape designers and engineering firms …  it is a veritable lobbyist heaven. So many to lobby, for showers of money from yet another source to help propel their massive redevelopment schemes.

I am surprised by some of the public commentary and folk belief that all the money for this redevelopment scheme comes from one giant developer with a very large piggy bank. And that as a result, everything might look all alike. Both proponents have set up consortiums of participants. The seniors home in one proposal comes with a operator of it and I think it is safe to presume its pay to play. That French school isn’t going to be free either, the developer offers to build it with school board funding from the Province. Similarly, associating with a subsidized housing provider doesn’t mean the developer is giving away houses to them, it means they can buy into the project providing they bring funding with them.

So tax dollars again appear on the scene, whether it be for schools, libraries, or subsidized housing. Similarly, the developers want someone else, ie a corporation, to fund the Brewseum. The developers are diversifying risk, spreading options, increasing diversity, getting buy in, whatever what terms it, there will be many players and pots of money.

Now the east-west LRT Confederation Line is going to be built regardless of whether the NCC accepts either proposal, or a hybrid, or rejects them both and leaves the land fallow for a few more decades. So I don’t count the current LRT projects, or the Stage2 expansion of the OTrains south to Riverside, east to Orleans, or west to Bayshore (en route to Kanata), as being public subsidies to the LeBreton developers.
And an eventual expansion of the LRT over the city-owned Prince of Wales railway bridge, or the bringing over the STO Rapibus to Bayview via the same bridge, is also long term logical. But it sure makes a great plank for the Mayor(s) to stand on when asking for stimulus funding now. Such a connection is highly desirable for the  Arena Event Space to make sense, which is key to the success of the larger development scheme. What a fortuitous complementary alignment of municipal, developer, provincial and federal interests (and yes, public interest too), which it is of course the job of lobbyists to point out. And to promote the merits of these shovel-ready projects with their accompanying shovel-loads-of-brainy-resourcefullness, over the dull brawn of shovel ready projects elsewhere.

I pointed out in a previous story the happy coincidence of one of the major proponents for the Flats having acquired an adjacent piece of development property, and efforts to buy “air rights” from the city from over the OTrain tracks, said air rights maybe being for a building above the rail corridor but more likely to be “transferable” to the top of adjacent approved towers. I mention this because it is imperative to look beyond the dotted line the NCC drew around the biddable site. There will be an abundance of ancillary projects and spending and things to lobby for. Another partner in the RV consortium is Windmill, already developing Zibi on an adjacent site. Road changes, transit, ped bridges … all influence both sites.

Mega projects like the Flats are job creating machines for lobbyists. There are the merits of the proposals, themselves, and merits of the proposals and the proponents to politicians and their agendas. There is money they bring to the table, and money they can get others to bring to the table. There is money to be spent here, and money trails to follow to other places.






5 thoughts on “LeBetter Flats (viii) on the role of lobbyists

  1. I’m concerned about the density of condominiums being proposed and the seemingly accepted premise that they are necessary to “justify” the LRT. I agree with increasing the density in our cities but believe there should be a balance. The future quality of life for people being packed into 30- and 44-storey buildings is unknown but is suggested here: http://www.macleans.ca/society/life/condo-hell/.

    1. You have to have some tall buildings does it have to be like Toronto or Vancouver no and it should not be.

  2. I agree with Wendy. The density of housing for the development is unacceptable. I am also concerned about the relationship of the development to the existing neighbourhood. The developments appear to imply that our neighbourhood doesn’t exist. It’s like night and day.

    I was at the meeting last night. A significant part of the crowd were wearing Senators gear, so they obviously support the proposal that the Senators support.

    I was not impressed with what a sales job both groups were doing (I don’t like sales jobs at all), particularly the proponent who said he had built a school in Barbados and that he continues to fund it and the same proponent who on the side said that his wife is on the Board of the Nature Conservatory, therefore, the flying birds will be protected from smashing into the windows of the tall buildings.

    I was blown away by the magnitude of the proposals. They don’t seem feasible.

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