NCC shortlists bidders for LeBreton's 'Library Parcel'

Ottawa is one step closer to seeing construction resume on LeBreton Flats after the National Capital Commission's (NCC) board of directors approved a short list of bidders to develop a small parcel on the western edge of the downtown core.

Developers team up with community partners to vie for Albert Street project

An artist's concept of what LeBreton Flats could look like under the 35-year vision approved Wednesday by the National Capital Commission's board of directors. (NCC)

Ottawa is one step closer to seeing construction resume on LeBreton Flats after the National Capital Commission's (NCC) board of directors approved a short list of bidders to develop a small parcel on the western edge of the downtown core.

The development comes two years after a splashy plan for a major rejuvenation centred around a downtown arena collapsed. Most of LeBreton Flats has sat vacant for decades.

The area in question encompasses 1.1 hectares at 655 Albert St., and is known as the library parcel because it's located just west of Ottawa's future central library, the final design of which the NCC board also approved Wednesday.

Although five teams responded to the NCC's request for qualifications, only three made the cut. They include some usual suspects — developers and architects whose names will be familiar to many —  but also a number of community partners.

The proponents are:

  • Dream LeBreton: Dream real estate company, which is heading the Zibi development; KPMB Architects and Perkins & Will with Two Row Architect and Purpose Building; PFS Studio, landscape architect; EllisDon, construction manager; and Innovation Seven, an Indigenous engagement consultant.
  • One Planet Living LeBreton: Windmill Development, which initiated the Zibi project and has a number of other well-known developments in Ottawa including the Christ Cathedral tower; Epic Investment Services; Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation (CCOC); Diamond Schmidt Architects; DTAH Landscape Architects; and construction company Ledcor Projects Eastern.
  • Team CentralTrinity Development Group, which also headed the doomed redevelopment plan with Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk; Hobin Architecture; Morley Hoppner, construction manager; Ottawa Community Housing, owner and operator of affordable housing; and The Good Companions, a seniors' services provider.

The long-term vision for LeBreton Flats is meant to be "realistic yet also ambitious," NCC CEO Tobi Nussbaum told reporters Wednesday.

The development is meant to be sustainable, and one-quarter of all housing is to be affordable — for the Library Parcel, that means 180 of the 600 residential units planned.

Buildings can tower up to 40 storeys along Albert Street, although the area's zoning plan has yet to be approved by city council. The formal proposal process is set to begin in May, and the preferred proponent is to be announced in January.

The first parcel of land to be developed will be just west of the new central library. The final design of the library, shown here, was also approved by the NCC board Wednesday. (Ottawa Public Library Board Meeting)

35-year plan approved

The library parcel is the first concrete phase of the NCC's master plan to develop LeBreton Flats over the next 35 years, which the NCC board also approved Wednesday.

Nussbaum said it's important to announce the short list at the same time because the longer-term master plan can seem "abstract" to people.

"Although we're excited about it, we get that people want to see a delivery in reality," Nussbaum said. "It's one thing to have a plan, it's another to see it executed."

This initial project must set the right tone, Nussbaum cautioned. He said the NCC will be looking for a proposal that hits all the marks on environmental sustainability and affordability, as well as cultural and heritage elements.

More than 40 per cent of the 29 hectares at LeBreton Flats will be parks and open spaces, according to the plan. The development blueprint envisions 7,500 people living in 4,000 new units. There's also to be 700,000 square feet of office space and another 25,000 of retail.

The long-term plan divides LeBreton Flats into four distinct districts. (NCC)

The plan is to develop LeBreton in phases, starting with the Albert District, the area under consideration now. The other districts include:

  • The Park District at the west end of LeBreton, the area's main green space.
  • The Flats District, a predominantly residential community with pedestrian-oriented streets and a variety of housing types.
  • Aqueduct District, a vibrant cultural and entertainment hub alongside the area's two existing aqueducts, will serve as a destination point for visitors and is likely the last to be developed.

The first decade of the plan will focus on the residential community along Albert Street, building a municipal park and extending Preston Street north to give pedestrians and cyclists better access to the Ottawa River.