Too much focus on arena in RendezVous LeBreton bid, public said

Nearly 8,000 people weighed in on LeBreton Flats during the public consultation. Here are the highlights.

Green and public spaces a highlight of the Sens' bid according to thousands of surveys

RendezVous LeBreton Group's vision for redeveloping LeBreton Flats makes a new arena for the Ottawa Senators the focal point. (image supplied by RendezVous LeBreton Group)

The public liked that the RendezVous LeBreton Group's proposal for LeBreton Flats provided ample green space and would move the Ottawa Senators downtown, but many were critical of the arena being the only focal point and did not want to see a skyline of high rises.

Those are some highlights about feedback on the highest-ranking bid, according to a report from the National Capital Commission that sums up nearly 8,000 surveys received between Jan. 26 and Feb. 8.

The questionnaire asked people to describe what they liked about each bid, and how each bid could be improved. 

NCC CEO Mark Kristmanson said a team, led by Environics, analyzed the public's responses and produced a report in time for the first meeting of the five-person evaluation committee.

"We discussed it thoroughly at each stage, so the public feedback affected everything all the way through," said Kristmanson. "It didn't need to have its own score. It affected every score."

So what did the people have to say?

'Too much focus on the arena' 

The debate that was happening in the city in January over whether the hockey franchise would move downtown and who would own an arena made its way into many of the responses about the Rendez-Vous LeBreton bid.

People felt the team's move downtown would make LeBreton vibrant and be its economic driver. They liked the green roof on the major event centre, the boardwalk to the Ottawa River, the affordable housing, and the fact the light rail track would be below-grade.
For two evenings in January 2016, public consultations on LeBreton Flats drew packed houses to the Canadian War Museum. (Kate Porter/CBC)

But the words "high rises," "real estate" and "condos" came up often and in a negative way. The report said that a "higher proportion" of comments were critical of the hockey team being the focal point of the RendezVous LeBreton bid. People felt LeBreton Flats "requires an attraction that is appealing to a broader cross-section of the public than hockey fans."

Some of the anonymous comments from the report:

  • "I have been a fan of the Senators for a long time and for two decades have been wishing the arena was downtown near public transit and not in Kanata. I like the idea of the Senators playing downtown and think the rooftop forest along with the inlet will be nice."
  • "The elevation change in the construction on the south side of the aqueduct which allows the LRT to be below grade is perfect and allows the entire development to flow freely, creates one continuous development with easy pedestrian and bicycle access everywhere."
  • "This bid simply looks horrifying, the renderings look like the (worst) parts of Toronto – condo, high rise hell. Ultimately, the bid comes off like an attempt to build an arena and condos, with no vision for what downtown Ottawa could become."
  • "I am a resident of LeBreton Flats and I'm afraid that this whole thing would end up as another Lansdowne. It's been far too long for this to happen so I really hope that this is it. That there will be follow-through and concrete actions to be made."

Automotive museum major downside to DCDLS bid

As for the bid that ranked second, some people lauded its ambition in trying to create a destination based on multiple attractions, while others felt the design resembled more of a theme park, suited to tourists.

Perhaps the strongest point of the Devcore Canderel and DLS proposal, people felt, was the amount of space alloted for public use, whether it was the linear park and urban beach, or the amenities such as the grocery store, library and YMCA.

People seemed to like the idea of an aquarium at LeBreton Flats, but they were adamant that the "automotive experience" did not fit with the rail history of the area and its transit-oriented future. They also wanted more affordable housing.

  • "It's spectacular. Captures the imagination. Will turn Ottawa into a vibrant capital city, and a major international tourist destination. i.e. No longer "Ottawa, the city that fun forgot". Great design features, and there is something there for everyone. Not simply focused on a hockey arena and condos."
  • "I love the fact that they're creating a space for people, not cars. Protected bike lanes, public spaces and walking paths are all essential for creating a more human city. I like the emphasis on giving this space to the public, with a variety of museums and centres of activity."
  • "The museums are tacky and not ideal for residents' everyday use. Kind of tourist trap feeling."
  • "The car museum has no place or relevance in Ottawa, ditch it."