NCC pulls plug on RendezVous LeBreton deal

The National Capital Commission is ending its deal with RendezVous LeBreton Group after its board of directors voted Wednesday to terminate the agreement.

Announcement comes amid dueling lawsuits by partners in redevelopment bid

This is the final nail in the coffin for RendezVous LeBreton's vision for a redeveloped LeBreton Flats, including a downtown NHL arena. (RendezVous LeBreton Group)

The National Capital Commission is ending its deal with RendezVous LeBreton Group after its board of directors voted late Wednesday afternoon to terminate the agreement signed in January.

This final nail in the coffin of a tortuous process to redevelop LeBreton Flats comes after the two partners in RendezVous LeBreton — Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and his company, and Trinity Development chair John Ruddy and his company — sued each other for hundreds of millions of dollars.

The NCC's spokesperson Sean Sutton said the board felt this was the best way to move forward. 

"It is also entirely consistent with the commitment made at our last public board meeting in November. From our perspective, it's a logical step we needed to take," he said. 

He said if the NCC was presented with compelling evidence the partners in RendezVous LeBreton Group had resolved their differences it could reconsider its decision. He also said they are now focused on the future of the project. 

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"The board's priority is to ensure the future of the redevelopment and is making sure that it is in a position to move quickly and maintain momentum."

 Graham Bird, the president of GBA Project Management, who were overseeing the project, said the NCC's move was an expected part of the process. 

The fact the NCC is pulling the plug isn't a huge surprise, given the battling lawsuits and that the RendezVous partners told the NCC in November that they could not work together to move the project forward.

But the NCC's move Wednesday appears to make the end official.

There's also a technical reason for Wednesday's decision: the termination doesn't take effect until 30 days from Wednesday. That will leave the NCC board free to make an unfettered decision about what to do next at its meeting at the end of January.

Senators 'regret' NCC decision

In a statement sent out soon after the NCC decision was announced, the Ottawa Senators said "it is with regret that we take note of the NCC's decision to terminate the process under which we were pursuing the historic redevelopment of LeBreton Flats."

The Senators said that after the NCC put off its final decision on the RendezVous project until January 2019, his company formally requested some sort of mediation, which the NCC rejected. That the Senators would be open to mediation is exceptionally puzzling considering that during that same period, team owner Eugene Melnyk served his RendezVous partners with a $700-million lawsuit.

However, it appears that the Senators are accepting this process is at an end, stating that despite their best efforts, "we were unsuccessful in bringing our vision to fruition."

Councillor wants a new approach

Coun. Catherine McKenney said it might be time to try a different approach to the development. (CBC)

Coun. Catherine McKenney, who represents the area, said she is disappointed but not surprised the deal is dead.

"There was no doubt that the partnership was flailing and I was never confident that it was going to get better," she said.

She said she doesn't think they should rush a new process to get the land developed and also thinks it might be time to look at a more organic growth plan for the area.

"I am not sure we need to look at one proponent, one developer, to do the whole development at LeBreton Flats," she said.

She added the NCC has tried big transformational developments and they haven't happened, so it might be time for a more piecemeal approach.  

"We can't continue to do the same thing and expect different results."

McKenna disappointed

MP Catherine McKenna, whose riding includes the LeBreton Flats area, said she is disappointed the process has led here.

"It's obviously unfortunate the situation that we find ourselves in. There is a dysfunctional partnership and that is not what anyone hoped for," she said.

She said the NCC needs to take time to consider the next steps. She said she would like to see a development with more affordable housing, oriented to the river and with good public spaces.

She stressed the development shouldn't be rushed.

"We have to now figure out what is the best way forward and keeping in mind, this is going to be a development in the centre of our city for a very long time."

With files from Kate Porter