A day after the National Capital Commission said it’s open to developing LeBreton Flats in stages, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson reiterated that he doesn’t want to see the long-vacant, 56-acre site “chopped up” and thinks the area needs a “grander vision,” similar to the failed former plan for the federal land.
The Rendezvous LeBreton Group, a partnership between Trinity Development’s John Ruddy and Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, had plans to build a mixed-use community anchored by an NHL arena that would serve as a new home for the professional hockey team. But that plan officially fell apart last week after Melnyk and Ruddy launched lawsuits totalling $1.7 billion in damages against each other and failed to resolve their issues in mediation.
“This was the first serious proposal to develop LeBreton in over 50 years, and it unfortunately failed but instead of throwing the whole process out, I think we should take another attempt, do a request for proposal and allow people to come with a grander vision than just little pieces of the land chopped up,” Watson told reporters on Friday following an event at city hall for International Women’s Day.
“I think the public will have their say over the course of the next several months, and certainly my position is we need to have a greater vision for the whole site and not just do one little chunk of land at a time.”
As the NCC moves on from the failed RendezVous LeBreton bid, the Crown corporation says it is open to “a flexible real estate strategy” and disposing the site to more than one proponent.
The NCC will launch consultations in June to find out what the public thinks is the best approach, CEO Tobi Nussbaum said in a news conference on Thursday.
NCC aims to start with site near new central library, Watson supportive
Nussbaum did say the NCC would like to first build up a parcel of land near where Ottawa’s new central library will be located, a site being referred to now as the Library District, which was not included in the original redevelopment plans for LeBreton.
The federal agency has tentative plans to launch a request for proposals for the Library District site, which would connect the main library to the Pimisi transit station, in November or December 2019. Nussbaum said the area is more “shovel-ready” than other parts of LeBreton Flats, a former working-class and industrial neighbourhood.
Because it is a separate chunk of land, Watson, a non-voting member of the NCC’s board, said he does support the move to develop the Library District first. He said doing so will “help stimulate” the main library and a future housing project that will be adjacent to the facility.
But the mayor made it clear that he hopes the NCC won’t carve up LeBreton Flats into similar districts. The NCC on Thursday discussed four other possible districts: Pimisi North, Pimisi South, Inlet and Bayview East.
“I don’t want a bunch of little condo projects. … We did that the last time there was any action on LeBreton,” Watson said. “There’s nothing wrong with having housing, condos, or affordable housing on the site but I think the last big piece of land that’s available should be done with a greater vision than simply putting lines on the acreage and saying, ‘We’re going to do a small project here and a small one there.'”
The mayor told reporters in French he thought there were a lot of “good ideas” in RendezVous LeBreton’s proposal.
The NCC said on Thursday that developers who bid on LeBreton Flats in 2015 will be allowed to do so again in this do-over.
RendezVous LeBreton’s rival bidder, a consortium called Devcore Canderel DLS (DCDLS), signalled late last year that it was still willing to step up and take over the LeBreton redevelopment.
The leaders of DCDLS included Montreal billionaires André Desmarais, president of Power Corp., and Guy Laliberté, founder of Cirque du Soleil.
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