Ottawa

Could it be an arena? NCC won't reveal 'major' attraction pitches for LeBreton

Amid rampant speculation about the possibility of a new NHL arena at LeBreton Flats, the National Capital Commission will only say "multiple" pitches for "major attractions" are in, and it won't publicize the ideas before inking an agreement with the winning candidates.

Winning proponents will be announced in June, NCC says

There had been much speculation about whether a new NHL arena could be coming to LeBreton Flats after the previous redevelopment plan, anchored by this proposed arena, collapsed in 2019. (RendezVous LeBreton Group)

Amid rampant speculation about the possibility of a new NHL arena at LeBreton Flats, the National Capital Commission will only say "multiple" pitches for "major attractions" are in, and it won't publicize the ideas before inking an agreement with the winning candidates.

When will we find out who wins the opportunity to build what? Not until June.

"It's not that we're trying to be secretive. It's really that we're trying to give this process the best chance of success moving forward," NCC CEO Tobi Nussbaum told reporters in a scrum after Thursday's NCC board of directors meeting.

"We have a lot of interest in getting this right. ... Expectations, I think, on the NCC are high for these sites, so we want to be sure to take the time to get it right. June isn't that far away."

The green circles show the two sites for major attractions in the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats. (National Capital Commission)

The NCC said it's finalizing its evaluation and due diligence process, and will then enter 60 days of negotiations with potential proponents.

The NCC will then sign a letter of intent with the preferred proponent, update the board of directors and the public in June, and then work to negotiate a lease, which could take until the end of 2022.

No public input on major attraction proposals

Asked whether the public will have any chance to weigh in ahead of the NCC's selection of a preferred proponent, Nussbaum said residents already discussed what they want to see at LeBreton during public consultations for the LeBreton Flats Master Concept Plan in 2019.

According to a report compiled after the consultations, participants said all-season outdoor amenities and a well-programmed network of open spaces were important to them, alongside liveability, connectivity, grocery stores and more.

And what did they want in a major attraction?

"The most frequently cited examples of a potential major attraction were a new hockey arena or major event centre," the report states. "While there is not unanimous support for such a facility, it was the most frequently discussed topic."

Other suggestions included an aquarium, a zoo, botanical gardens, a Ferris wheel or a planetarium.

Nussbaum said Thursday the NCC took the 2019 consultations "very, very seriously," and it's now time "to move into a more action-oriented phase dealing with specific ideas."

Nussbaum also said there will likely be opportunities for public input when the city begins to approve specific plans.

Next development phase to launch in June

Also in June, the NCC will launch the next development phase for LeBreton, focusing on up to four parcels of land in the Flats District.

According to the master concept plan, the Flats will be a mainly residential area "defined by small-scale, pedestrian-oriented streets" and different housing types, with almost all parking underground, courtyards for shared use, and a focus on making the area friendly for pedestrians and cyclists. 

This map from the LeBreton Flats Master Concept Plan shows the four development districts. The district in yellow, known as the Flats, is the next parcel of land coming up for expressions of interest in June. (National Capital Commission)

"This site will become an important gateway to LeBreton Flats from Wellington Street and the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway," the NCC said in a news release Thursday. 

Soil in the area has been remediated and is ready for development on a long-term ground lease, the NCC said.

The successful proponent would be responsible for building streets and infrastructure in the area.

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