Ottawa

Gatineau drops downtown centre plan

Gatineau city council has dropped plans to build a large multi-use centre in the downtown, saying the project has become too expensive.

Gatineau city council has dropped plans to build a large multi-use centre in the downtown, saying the project has become too expensive.

The 5,000-seat facility was slated to be built at the intersection of Montcalm Street and Wellington Street.

It was supposed to revitalize the downtown in the Hull sector of Gatineau and replace the aging Robert-Guertin Centre, home of the Gatineau Olympiques.

Gatineau's mayor, Marc Bureau, had been pushing hard for the arena and concert space, but some downtown businesses, homeowners and artists were against the introduction of such a large facility in their neighbourhood.

"They had a dream, but maybe the wrong dream," remarked Stefan Cayer, a furniture store owner who fought 10 months to block the city from possibly expropriating the land he rents.

Although Cayer agreed the site needs a facelift, he'd rather expand his store on the property or see small shops and cafes pop up instead of a large arena complex.

Gatineau councillor Denise Laferriere, who pushed the arena and concert project, said the area for the proposed complex was worth investing in, even though the land costs have doubled to $34 million.

"I think it's pitiful," she said of the rejection of the plan. "To me, it's going to cost more because we lose this opportunity for the city core."

As for revitalizing the city core, Laferriere remained optimistic, vowing to try new projects such as a new central library along the Ruisseau de la Brasserie.

Council walked away from the plan on Tuesday, saying the cost of buying or expropriating homes and commercial real estate to make room for the arena was over $20 million.

A number of alternatives have been considered, including renovating the existing Robert-Guertin Centre and moving it to a site favoured by a developer, near Highway 50 and the St. Louis Street exit.

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