$4 billion RendezVous LeBreton project proposal collapses; NCC heads back to the drawing board

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LeBreton Flats in Dec. 2018 (Google Maps)

Mediation talks to save the $4 billion RendezVous LeBreton Group development of Ottawa’s LeBreton Flats have collapsed, meaning the National Capital Commission (NCC) will need to make a decision on how to reset the vision for its 55 acres of vacant land near downtown Ottawa.

The agency which oversees federally-owned land in Ottawa and Gatineau said in a statement that it will hold a meeting on March 7 “to finalize the elements of a new process for the future development” of the land, which was supposed to house a new arena for the Ottawa Senators, plus residential and other commercial developments.

The NCC said it is cancelling the original competition, meaning that will not negotiate or proceed with the proposal from the second place finisher in the original competition, Devcore Canderel DLS.

“The (NCC) board made clear its desire that the new process incorporate lessons learned from the previous Request for Proposals and that it build upon and update the planning work that has been done by the NCC to date,” the NCC said in a Feb. 28 statement.

“Important to the success of the new approach will be community and public engagement, Algonquin consultation and collaboration with the City of Ottawa as well as private sector partners. This will be a timely, inclusive and creative process that reflects the site’s importance as both a capital and city-building opportunity.”

RendezVous LeBreton, a joint venture with participation from the Senators and The Trinity Group, ran into trouble when Senators owner Eugene Melynk and John Ruddy from the Trinity Group could not reach an understanding about shared risk and investment in the project. The dispute ended up in the courts in December as a January deadline for the sign-off between the NCC and RendezVous LeBreton neared.

The NCC granted a month’s extension to Feb. 28, and the competing parties agreed to mediation by Warren Winkler. However, the mediator reported on Feb. 27 “that the parties have been unable to reach a settlement,” the NCC said.

In a statement, Melnyk wrote: “We are determined and committed to explore alternative approaches in central locations that could accommodate a world-class hub. We are here fore the long term and want a world lass venue where Ottawans will live, work, play and enjoy the best the city has to offer.”

Meanwhile, Ruddy wrote: “I would urge the NCC to move forward on the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats – regardless of whether Trinity Group plays a role or not – given the importance of this development to our community.”

The original proposal fell apart because of disputing versions about how much risk/investment each partner would need to bring to the project. The proposed arena, if funded privately, would need supporting revenue from neighbouring condo and commercial buildings, but Melynk balked at paying the arena’s costs while Trinity owned and was preparing to develop nearby properties that, he feared, would drain RendezVous LeBreton’s own market area.

Trinity Group, meanwhile, asserted that Melynk wanted a free arena – with the risks for the overall project landing entirely on Trinity, an option it considered unacceptable.

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