NCC launches Nepean Point rejuvenation, approves Ottawa western LRT plan

Samuel de Champlain could be getting a few more visitors at Nepean Point if a National Capital Commission competition comes to fruition.
The NCC has launched a competition to redevelop Nepean Point, home to a statue of Samuel de Champlain, on the Ottawa River. (NCC)

Samuel de Champlain could be getting a few more visitors if a National Capital Commission plan comes to fruition.

The NCC launched an international competition Thursday to redevelop Nepean Point on the Ottawa River, home to the prominent statue of Samuel de Champlain.

The site was first developed around 1910 and included a Victorian footbridge that was later removed. The statue was unveiled in 1915.
The Samuel de Champlain statue at Nepean Point was unveiled in 1915. (NCC)

An outdoor amphitheatre was added for Canada's centennial in 1967, but the dressing rooms built into the hill have asbestos and Nepean Point hasn't been as accessible since the National Gallery was built, said NCC CEO Mark Kristmanson. 

"It's overdue for a refresh and a rethink," he said.

So, as a project for the country's 150th birthday, the NCC has launched a competition to find design teams to turn the site back into a focal point in the city, on a construction budget of $6.7 million.

Kristmanson is keen to see what visions come out of it, but could see an amphitheatre of some kind remaining, and eventually allow people to take in the views above the river and walk from Major's Hill Park to Lady Grey Drive, behind the Royal Canadian Mint.

Once four teams make a shortlist, the NCC expects to present the proposals to the public next October, and for a jury to choose a winning concept by November 2017. Construction should be completed by 2022. 

A future phase might see the Victorian pedestrian bridge rebuilt to join Nepean Point to Major's Hill Park.

West LRT design approved

The NCC board also approved the functional design and alignment of the City of Ottawa's tracks for the western portion of its light rail system.
A map of the alignment of the future western leg of Ottawa light rail, where the red line is the track and the light green represents NCC lands. (NCC)

The tracks would go through federal lands in a tunnel under the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, as well as when the line runs through the Pinecrest Creek area.

A few years ago, the western LRT created acrimony between the city and the NCC, but the two parties reached an agreement last spring.

The stretch approved Thursday is part of the second phase of Ottawa's light rail project, and the city needed this NCC board approval to take its next steps, such as putting out the request for proposals.

Mayor Jim Watson anticipates that RFP to go out in May or June, and says those tracks are still expected to open in 2023.

Focus on regional transportation

Ottawa's light rail project wasn't the only transportation file to be discussed at the NCC board meeting. For the first time, a half hour was set aside to talk about regional transportation issues, a segment that the NCC's leadership hopes will become a regular feature.

Both Ottawa mayor Jim Watson and Gatineau mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, who are non-voting members, gave updates about their transit plans. They said they intend for the two cities to work together on transit files, and hoped to not need top-down direction from the NCC.

For instance, in the coming weeks, they plan to announce how they hope to make the transition to light rail seamless for transit riders using both OC Transpo and Société de transport de l'Outaouais (STO).

"We don't want to remove all our buses on Slater and Albert just to have them replaced by STO buses," said Watson. At the same time, he acknowledged the Gatineau buses need to go places like the University of Ottawa and the Rideau Centre.

As for future plans, Watson said after the second phase of light rail is underway, finding a way to repair and use the Prince of Wales rail bridge for transit over the Ottawa River could become a priority.

New look proposed for Terrasses de la Chaudière

NCC board members also gave federal design approval to a plan to reclad a government complex in Gatineau where 6,500 public servants work.​
The federal government plans to reclad Les Terrasses de la Chaudière, a government complex in Gatineau, after a couple of instances in which brick fell off the buildings. (NCC)

The brick façade of the Terrasses de la Chaudière is falling apart, and bricks have even fallen off the building twice since 1997, creating a liability for Public Services and Procurement Canada, according to a NCC report.

The overall project is still at an early stage, but board members received a presentation from NCC senior architect Chris Hoyt about how the complex could be made more pedestrian-friendly, and how its buildings are letting in more light and how they could let in more.

"We went from a very dry cladding project to creating a new place in Gatineau," said board member Michael Pankiw, who commended staff.

Fellow board member Norman Hotson acknowledged there was a shift in direction for the renovation.

"The original vision was a family of buildings," said Hotson, who wondered if that cohesive look shouldn't be maintained.

The NCC will still have to approve other stages of the project, but the idea is for the recladding at Terrasses de la Chaudière to start early next year and finish by 2021.

A concept of how Les Terrasses de la Chaudière in Gatineau could look from the Chaudière bridge, according to renderings provided to the NCC board on Jan. 19, 2017. (GRC Architects)