Ottawa Senators' $3.5B LeBreton Flats bid aims to turn desolate site into bustling downtown hub

The LeBreton Flats redevelopment proposal backed by Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk aims to return the site to its heyday as a bustling urban hub, with a focus on public transit and a world-class library, sources familiar with the bid told CBC News.

2 competing bids to be made public today

The parcels in red are the minimum 9.3 hectares of land to be developed by the winning proposal, while the yellow parcels feature an optional 12 hectares of additional land. (National Capital Commision)

The LeBreton Flats redevelopment proposal backed by Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk aims to return the site to its heyday as a bustling urban hub with five distinct neighbourhoods, a focus on public transit and a world-class library, sources familiar with the bid told CBC News.

The 2,500-page proposal by RendezVous LeBreton Group (RLG) includes an NHL-calibre arena, which would become the Senators' new home rink. Detroit-based Rosetti Architects, which built the team's current home in Kanata, has been chosen by RLG to construct the new, 18,000-seat arena as well. 

Sources said the arena will be located between Bayview station and the future Pimisi station. The building will serve as a multi-purpose event centre, and will feature both a glass facade similar to Ottawa's Shaw Centre and wooden cladding in tribute to the area's past as a lumber town.

It will also have a roof-top green space with a walkway and views of Parliament Hill and the city's other sights.

RLG has brought in renowned Danish architect Morten Schmidt — a member of the international team behind the much-admired Halifax Central Library — to help design the library. Sources said the building will be designed to act as a multi-faceted cultural centre rather than a traditional books-on-a-shelf venue.
The new Halifax Central Library in Halifax. Danish architect Morten Schmidt was one of the building's international designers. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Sources said the proposed library design could be expanded to include room for Library and Archives Canada, which announced earlier this month that it's working with the Ottawa Public Library on a new central branch. 

Other companies involved in the bid include construction firm PCL, Brookfield Asset Management and commercial developer Trinity Development Group, which was involved in the Lansdowne Park project.

A large team of architects worked on the proposal, including well-known local architect Barry Hobin.

5 distinct neighbourhoods

The RLG bid includes a public plaza beside the arena with room for approximately 28,000 people, as well as pedestrian connections to the future Bayview and Pimisi light rail transit stations. The entire development will be heavily transit-oriented, sources said.
Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk said his team would not play at LeBreton Flats if his group's proposal isn't chosen by the NCC board of directors. (CBC)

The bid also includes at least two hotels, commercial and retail space, and a residential component.

The redevelopment, worth a total of $3.5-billion, will include five distinct neighbourhoods to be constructed over three multi-year phases.

  • Phase 1 will be built from 2018-26, and will include 1,400 residential and 500 hotel units. The three neighbourhoods to be built during this phase are LeBreton, Pimisi, and the Aqueduct, a pedestrian-only area of street-level shops, bars and condos in the eastern-most section of LeBreton Flats.
  • Phase 2 will be built from 2026-2036, and will include another 1,000 residential and 300 hotel units, as well as a fourth neighbourhood.
  • Phase 3 will be built after 2036, and will include a fifth neighbourhood.

Sources said the buildings will be massed in such a way that they will not interfere with sight lines to landmarks such as Parliament Hill, a condition stipulated by the National Capital Commission.

Rivals didn't approach Melnyk

The full details of the bid from RendezVous Lebreton Group will be made public at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday, along with details from a competing bid by DCDLS Group, which includes Devcore Group and at least two Quebec-based billionaires — André Desmarais and Guy Laliberté.
Quebec-based billionaires Andre Desmarais, left, and Guy Laliberté, right are behind the DCDLS Group bid to redevelop LeBreton Flats. (The Canadian Press)

Sources familiar with the RLG bid said the group includes deep-pocketed backers besides Melnyk, but didn't reveal who those individuals are, or whether they're public partners or silent investors.

Melnyk has said the Senators aren't for sale, and sources said DCDLS Group has not contacted him about acquiring the franchise. That's led to questions about who will play at LeBreton Flats if DCDLS Group wins the right to redevelop the site.

Sources said RLG is setting its sights on all four parcels of available land — the NCC is offering up 9.3 hectares with the option of taking on an additional 12.3 hectares — to be developed over three phases.

DCDLS Group is also proposing an NHL-calibre arena and a central library, along with two museums.

The public unveiling of the two plans takes place Tuesday at the Canadian War Museum in LeBreton Flats at 4 p.m. Formal presentations from the two groups will begin at 6 p.m.