The competing visions for LeBreton Flats are now on full public display, with two teams jostling to pour billions into the downtown parcel of land to draw people there with ambitious plans for landmark attractions.
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Developers Devcore Canderel DLS Group — the group backed by Quebec-based billionaires André Desmarais and Guy Laliberté — asked people to imagine a linear park the length of the development, linking a multimedia museum, Ripley's aquarium, planetarium, a skydiving wind tunnel and, eventually, an NHL arena for the Ottawa Senators.
RendezVous LeBreton, the group backed by Ottawa Senators' owner Eugene Melnyk, sees five distinct neighbourhoods built around a major events centre, which proponents say could hold 180 events a year, far more than the 40-50 NHL hockey games that would take place there.
Both include an innovation pavilion, linear plazas, public squares, and, of course, an NHL-calibre arena.
At a media preview to the public consultations taking place Tuesday at the Canadian War Museum, the two teams made their best pitch for why the National Capital Commission should choose their plan for transforming the prime land from a bulldozed wasteland to a national or international attraction, animated year-round.
The Devcore Canderel DLS bid: "Canadensis"
A linear park called "Canadensis," featuring plants from the various eco-systems across Canada, would be the spine of the bid backed by developers Devcore, Canderel, Quebec scion André Desmarais, Cirque de Soleil founder Guy Laliberté, co-founder of JDS Uniphase William Sinclair and the Mierins family.
Ottawa architect Ritchard Brisbin described it as a "magical botanical thread", a "mash-up" of the Tuileries Garden in Paris, Highline Park in New York City and Millenium Park in Chicago.
That bid includes several public plazas, including one with a bandshell and another day-and-night space that could hold Winterlude or National Aboriginal Day, called "Canada Square".
Various new attractions for the capital would be built, including a Canadian Communication Centre, planetarium, skydiving wind tunnel, SPIN skate park, automotive museum and Ripley's aquarium.
During the first phase, 1,100 residential units would be built, and 2,500 overall, including a seniors' enclave and student residences. The team also sees a public elementary school and retail area anchored by Farm Boy.
The trick was to find a balance between city building and nation building, said Daniel Peritz, a vice-president of Canderel, adding his group's intention would be to buy the land from the NCC.
A NHL-calibre arena fits into the third phase, and the group re-iterated several times that the Ottawa Senators should be downtown.
"We did imagine all of these," said architect Brisbin. "We imagined them all at LeBreton."
RendezVous LeBreton bid: "illumiNATION"
The bid called "Illumination LeBreton" would see five distinct neighbourhoods — Pimisi, Bayview, Quartier LeBreton, Asticou, and Aqueduct — centred around a major events centre.
The team described bringing new focus back to the old aqueduct, by lining it with pedestrian walkways, and create another axis lined with public art.
The plan would see light rail run under a new east-west road called Canada Drive, all connecting a Nations Plaza and LeBreton Square, the heart of the redeveloped lands, beside the events centre.
Place de la Gare would connect the waterfront to Bayview Station. The site would also feature a National Abilities Centre, a Canada House for members of the military and a Preston Canopy featuring projections and a water show.
Of course, the team sees a new home for the Ottawa Senators.
"The redevelopment of LeBreton Flats is about much more than hockey," said the team's president Cyril Leeder.
While the bid is led by Senators Sports and Entertainment and Trinity Developments, the joint venture has more than 30 other partners, including developers Windmill, Brigil and Mattamy Homes, the Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation and architect Barry Hobin.
Public consultations again Wednesday
"We've arrived at a defining moment in the LeBreton Flats story," said Mark Kristmanson, CEO of the National Capital Commission. "A bravo is deserved for both teams."
The NCC is holding public consultations at the Canadian War Museum Jan. 26 and 27, with online feedback open until February 8.
An evaluation committee is to recommend one of the plans to the NCC's board in March 2016.
The NCC doesn't intend to announce the winner to the public for nearly a full year after that, in early 2017, after it has negotiated with the successful bidder and received federal approvals.