NCC issues RFP for Lebreton Flats Library Parcel in Ottawa with a 65% off affordable housing land deal

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Ottawa Construction News staff writer

The National Capital Commission (NCC) has issued a Request for Qualifications seeking proposals to build a mixed-use development at Ottawa’s LeBreton Flats Library Parcel.

As part of a Master Concept Plan vision for LeBreton Flats released earlier this year, the 1.1-hectare site at 665 Albert Street, on the western edge of Ottawa’s downtown core, adjacent to a light-rail transit station and the Capital pathway network, and within close walking distance of public institutions such as the War Museum and the planned $193 million joint federal-municipal central public library.

The NCC RFQ document

“We are very excited to launch this first solicitation of our Building LeBreton project in a way that will meet our objectives of a socially inclusive and sustainably designed community as outlined in the project’s guiding principles,” NCC CEO Tobi Nussbaum said in a statement. “The proceeds of this sale will be re-invested by the NCC and allow us to proceed with the realization of the beautiful public spaces and capital destination as envisioned by our Master Concept Plan.”

library parcel site

At a news conference, NCC and CMHC officials said that the land has been valued at $30 million. Developers who meet the minimum requirements for affordable and energy efficient housing for 30 per cent of the units will be able to claim a 65 per cent discount on the land price – meaning they would only need to pay $10 million for the property. The rebate can be higher if they wish to add more affordable units, for longer periods of time.

A NCC spokesperson said she could not say what the project’s overall probable value (including affordable and market rate residential, plus other uses), would be, nor confirm the likely completion time of the project, because that would depend on a variety of factors. The RFP documentation says shortlisted proponents will receive the RFP by May 2021, and they would be expected to submit their proposal by November that year.

Construction could start in 2022, the NCC says. The NCC will use the revenue from the $30 million for the land (to be paid in combination by the developer and the CHMC program) to fund further work on the overall Lebreton Flats site.

Developers are free to suggest proposals for commercial and other use, especially for the ground level of what would be two or three medium-rise buildings on the site. While the affordable accommodations must be rental, the market-rate units could be condominiums, the NCC says.

The Request for Qualifications will qualify a shortlist of up to five proponents with extensive and relevant development experience, appropriate design expertise, as well as the financial capacity to undertake the Library Parcel project. Interested proponents have until Jan. 15, 2021, to submit their proposals.

These shortlisted qualified proponents will then be invited to participate in the second stage of the solicitation process, the Request for Proposals. At that time, they will be required to submit a more detailed design and financial proposal.

A NCC spokesperson said she could not say what the project’s overall probable value (including affordable and market rate residential, plus other uses), would be, nor confirm the likely completion time of the project, because that would depend on a variety of factors. The RFP documentation says shortlisted proponents will receive the RFP by May 2021, and they would be expected to submit their proposal by November that year.

The NCC and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) are working in partnership to support the development of a minimum of 600 new housing units, of which at least 180 will be below market rent. Proponents demonstrating an ability to deliver affordable housing in a net-zero carbon development could be eligible to acquire this prime real estate at a substantial discount through the Federal Lands Initiative, under the National Housing Strategy  — representing the 65 per cent savings, or subsidy of land costs to about $10 million.

The subsidy will ensure that at least 30 per cent of the residential units built at the Library Parcel will be kept affordable at below 80 per cent of median market rent for a period of at least 25 years.

This development represents a reboot of the NCC’s plans to develop the long-dormant expropriated site. An earlier proposal including plans for NHL hockey arena fell apart when the developers including Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk’s Capital Sports Management Inc. (CSMI), and Trinity Development tore into each other in a dispute about costs and responsibilities in implementing their multi-billion RendezVous Lebreton proposal.

Following the collapse of that deal in 2018, the NCC decided to break the Lebreton project into sections, starting with the easiest to develop land near the site of the new Library and Archives building.

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