Ottawa

NCC's LeBreton plan saves space for NHL arena

The National Capital Commission's latest concept for LeBreton Flats puts the spotlight on a public entertainment area surrounding the historic aqueduct, but still sets aside space for a major events centre like an NHL arena.

Master concept plan includes parks, entertainment centre and 4,000 residential units

The National Capital Commission's draft master plan for LeBreton Flats proposes seven feature districts. The redevelopment concept includes housing, public and green spaces, offices and retail, and even sets aside land for an events space. (NCC)

The National Capital Commission's latest concept for LeBreton Flats puts the spotlight on a public entertainment area surrounding the historic aqueduct, but still sets aside space for a major events centre like an NHL arena.

Less than nine months after the fall of the RendezVous LeBreton partnership and plan, the NCC unveiled its new vision on Wednesday that incorporates some of the elements of previous plans — such as thousands of residential units, offices and retail space, and even a possible hockey arena — but puts more emphasis on public and green spaces.

Public consultations in June this year indicated that residents wanted LeBreton to be a place that included affordable housing, public and green spaces, and both community-scale amenities and major attractions.

The NCC appears to have listened to that feedback, unveiling a plan Wednesday that envisions the 24-hectare site as different districts that focus on each of these public demands.

The Albert district, for example, would include mixed-use highrises — with some towers reaching between 25 and 40 storeys — while the so-called Flats district is envisioned as a pedestrian-oriented residential neighbourhood. In all, 4,000 homes are being planned for LeBreton, some of which will be designated as affordable units.

Spotlight on Aqueduct District

The anchor of the 24-hectare site is a small-scale entertainment district built around the historic aqueduct, with boutique retail shops, cafés and restaurants. A "grand staircase" will connect the district with Booth Street above. 

The addition of 4.5 kilometres of pathways will connect the districts, which will also include several parks, such as the large, naturalized area planned for the western end of the site.

NHL arena still possible

The NCC has set aside a parcel of land on Albert Street for a potential "events centre."

A new downtown home for the Ottawa Senators was central to the RendezVous LeBreton Group plan. But the group's feuding partners — Sens owner Eugene Melnyk and developer John Ruddy — failed to reach a deal after years of negotiation, ending in an acrimonious lawsuit.

In February, the Senators organization indicated it was still interested in moving the arena downtown at some point. A request for comment from the franchise on its interest in the NCC's latest plan was not answered.

A new downtown NHL arena, pictured here in an artist's rendering, was central to the RendezVous LeBreton Group plan for redeveloping LeBreton. The plan collapsed in February when the partners failed to reach a deal after years of negotiation. (Image supplied by RendezVous LeBreton Group)

But Mayor Jim Watson, who is a non-voting member of the NCC board, said he believes the arena will eventually have to relocate.

"Clearly there's challenges with attendance at an arena that has no walk-up traffic," said Watson, referring to the Senators' attendance dip this season.

The mayor called the NCC's plan, with its focus on the aqueduct, "very exciting" but believes that an NHL arena also belongs at LeBreton.

"The success of most North American franchises is to have the arena in the downtown core, next to transit," Watson told reporters. "I think you will see an arena downtown."

Mayor Jim Watson and NCC CEO Tobi Nussbaum say the new plan, which includes seven  new districts to be developed one at a time, is more feasible and realistic than past plans for the site.  1:10

Asked if Melnyk would be the person to bring the team downtown, Watson said: "I don't think so. He seems to have lost interest in moving it downtown, so I'm told."

Watson said that until Melnyk changes his mind, or a new owner takes over the team, the land should be held as greenspace.

More feasible plan

The NCC believes the latest plan is more feasible, in part because it will sell off parts of land to be redeveloped in a number of stages, using the proceeds of the sale to develop the public parts of the redevelopment.

CEO Tobi Nussbaum on the NCC's new master plan for LeBreton Flats. 7:59

If the board approves the final version of the plan in January, the NCC will put out a request for proposals to develop the Library district, a parcel of land slated for highrises next to the new central library site.

If all goes well, the NCC may release a second RPF for the next phase of the project, although the redevelopment of the entire site would take years, even decades.

NCC is asking for input on this early-stage concept in a public survey you can take here. 

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