Ottawa Construction News staff writer
Major construction works will soon start on LeBreton Flats, transforming the decades-ago expropriated wasteland into housing, community attractions, and hopefully a new Ottawa Senators stadium, says National Capital Commission (NCC) chief executive officer Tobi Nussbaum.
Speaking to the Ottawa Construction Association’s (OCA) annual general meeting on March 30, Nussbaum, whose agency oversees about $2.2 billion in federally owned property assets in Ottawa and western Quebec, said the agency is also working on a diversity of projects to enhance its waterfront properties.
Plans for LeBreton Flats have gone through ups and downs in recent years, but finally work will start this spring on the redevelopment’s first phase, a parcel adjacent to the new Ottawa central library at Albert and Booth streets.
In the past year, the NCC approved DREAM LeBreton as the successful proponent to “build Canada’s largest residential zero-carbon development,” it issued an RFP for the FLATS Phase of as many as four parcels of land within the FLATS district between Wellington and the aqueducts, as well as the June announcement with Capital Sports Development Group led by the Ottawa Senators to develop a major event centre.
“We’re going to have everything from six storey lifestyle buildings to high rise towers, really with the goal of transforming the site into a place of national and civic pride, anchored with iconic public spaces in major attractions.
“We signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Senators hockey franchise back in June, and the idea is that the MOU would move towards and eventual lease to have a major event centre,” Nussbaum said.
With the death of former senators owner Eugene Melnyk, the team is up for sale. All of the three potential buyers groups have expressed interest in developing the land, Nussbaum said.
However, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, while in Ottawa in late March, suggested the land allocated at the LeBreton site may be insufficiently large and the team should consider other possible locations for its downtown site relocation.
“There’s going to be a new owner and that new owner is going to figure out what makes the most sense,” Bettman said on March 27.
The 2.5 hectare (approximately six acres) parcel of land set aside for a major events centre at LeBreton “struck me as being a little small,” Bettman said to news reporters.
“You need parking. You want to make sure you can build the arena big enough to have all the loading docks and TV hookups that make a building really accessible.”
Answering a question at the OCA gathering, Nussbaum said he and other NCC representatives had met with Bettman.
He said the MOU has “more than six, six and a half acres as part of its core, but there is flexibility in that plan. There is flexibility in that plan.
“And that’s an important component. So yeah, six acres is not necessarily the end of the story. We think that there is a very viable project there.
“Obviously it’s going to be up to the new owners to determine whether they want to continue with the lease. If they do, “as I said, from our end, there is an opportunity for flexibility around the edges.”
On the waterfront, Nussbaum said the NCC is working on redeveloping Nepean Point behind the National Gallery to make it a much more accessible site “with two levels of unobstructed views to both the river and Parliament Hill,” including an architectural shelter called Whispering Point, and a new pedestrian bridge over St. Patrick street, linking the site to Majors hill Park.
Several other projects are planned as well along the riverfront on both the Ottawa and Gatineau sides, he said.
However, Nussbaum said the status of 24 Sussex Dr., formerly the Prime Minister’s residence, remains unclear. “I think it’s fair to say that the government has made it clear that it needs to make a decision on the future of that site,” he said. And until such time, we’re a little bit in a holding pattern.”