Ottawa

LeBreton Flats can be Canada's 'Central Park,' former ministers say

Two former federal politicians say LeBreton Flats has the potential to be transformed into an important Canadian landmark drawing visitors from around the world, similar to New York City's Central Park.

John Manley, John Baird urge NCC to keep land public

The NCC announced in March it would hive off the LeBreton Flats redevelopment in four sections. (CBC)

Two former federal politicians say LeBreton Flats has the potential to be transformed into an important Canadian landmark drawing visitors from around the world, similar to New York City's Central Park.

But to achieve that, they say, the 85-hectare site west of Ottawa's downtown must be kept largely in public hands.

Let's start with a vision for the public space before we start hiving off pieces of it for private development.- John Manley

 

In a recent Ottawa Citizen op-ed, former Liberal minister John Manley and former Conservative minister John Baird urged the federal government to rethink the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats.

"We'd like to see them begin with a broader vision of what you can do with this entire property," Manley told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Wednesday. "Something that the world will want to see and that Canadians will be proud of."

In March, the National Capital Commission (NCC) announced it would redevelop LeBreton Flats in stages, after an ambitious redevelopment plan by RendezVous LeBreton collapsed amid bickering between Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and his partner, Trinity Development Group's John Ruddy.

But Manley said he's worried that will still leave the redevelopment in the hands of developers who may ignore the public aspect of the site.

Instead, Manley said he'd like to see LeBreton Flats redeveloped with public funds and maintained as a public space, rather than a commercial one.

Former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley, seen here after being presented with the Officer of the Order of Canada in 2010, is calling on the current federal government to keep LeBreton Flats in public hands. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

'Let's just take our time'

Manley said the 85-hectare site holds the potential to become an important national landmark, and that all Canadians have a stake in that opportunity.

"If somebody has given the NCC the mandate to maximize the returns on this land, then that mandate needs to be changed," Manley said.

"This is the last large piece of federal land that is undeveloped in this region.... [It] needs to be developed in the public interest and not turned into a series of condo developments."

To achieve that, the NCC should launch an international competition inviting proposals from "the best urban planners and architects" from Canada and around the world, he said. 

"Let's just take our time and let's start with a vision for the public space before we start hiving off pieces of it for private development."

RendezVous LeBreton's winning bid for LeBreton Flats included a new NHL arena for the Ottawa Senators. The partnership collapsed in February. (RendezVous LeBreton Group)

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