The NCC recently announced the two development proposals for LeBreton Flats that are moving on to the next step in the process. I visited the open house at the Canadian War Museum last Wednesday to learn all about the proposals.
Both proposals are professionally put together, but in my opinion one of them is much better than the other.
First, the proposals (in alphabetical order):
- Canadensis: LeBreton Re-imagined by Devcore, Canderel and DLS Group
- Illumination LeBreton by RendezVous LeBreton Group
As you’ll see, the proposals share a number of common elements, but the one that’s attracting the most attention is a new arena to replace the aging
Palladium Corel Centre ScotiaBank Place Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata. There are two main differences surrounding the arena: how it is used in the overall site proposal, and whether it will even be used by the Senators.
Canadensis: Lebreton Re-imagined
Devcore Canderel DLS Group’s proposal, Canadensis: LeBreton Re-imagined, includes a lot of public spaces combined with cultural spaces like museum-type facilities, a bandshell, and a spine pathway along the aqueduct. A new YMCA, the Canadian Communication Centre (Canada’s first multi-media museum), the World Automotive Experience (“dedicated to celebrating all things automotive”), Canada Circle (“the heart of LeBreton’s public realm”) and an urban beach on the edge of Nepean Bay are some of the big destinations. And an aquarium!
Other features include a science and innovation pavilion, including a planetarium, and the Theatre of Sports and Entertainment, which is separate from the arena.
Some mixed-use land on the southern edge of the parcel provides a mix of retail, commercial, residential and community anchors (including a school), with good links to public transit. Included is a new home for the Central Branch of the Ottawa Public Library.
RendezVous LeBreton Group’s proposal, Illumination LeBreton, is a much denser landuse than Canadensis, with the focal point being a new hockey arena. Adjacent to the arena is the Abilities Centre Ottawa (modelled after the Abilities Centre in Whitby) and Sensplex, a public use ice surface. Also on the site is a new Central Branch of the Ottawa Public Library, and some public use spaces.
This proposal also makes use of the aqueduct that runs through the site, with walkways and shops along its length.
I mentioned the dense landuse. A large part of this development proposal consists of apartment buildings, with less open space than the other proposal.
So, which do I prefer?
LeBreton Flats is basically empty today because in the 1950s the federal government expropriated the land in order to build a bunch of government office buildings that never ended up being built. Hundreds of families were displaced and neighbourhoods lost forever. Thus, I think that any development on the site should have a strong public-use component. And while some housing is desireable, I won’t think the end result should be simply another dense in-fill of condos.
Those two considerations alone give the Devcore Canderel DLS Group’s proposal a distinct advantage. But going beyond that, Canadensis preserves the sightlines looking north and west making the site much more visually attractive and maintining the links to the Ottawa River.
But I think one of the strongest merits to the Devcore Canderel DLS Group’s proposal is that it does not hinge on a single feature (i.e. the hockey arena). Even though both proposals include a hockey arena, Canadensis is not focused on it and it doesn’t appear in the development plan until the last phase. The RendezVous LeBretton proposal, on the other hand, is built around the hockey arena. If the Senators leave town (unlikely, but not completely impossible) then what will happen?
(For those of you who will say “The Senators will never leave town”, I remind you that the owner of the Ottawa Senators, Eugene Melnyk, did basically say that he needed an additional revenue steam/tax break because the Senators weren’t generating enough on their own. This all took place in 2013 when the idea of a casino at Rideau Carleton was being dealt with and he wasn’t involved in the process. But that’s a different conversation.)
So, I hope that the NCC choses the Devcore Canderel DLS Group’s proposal because it’s simply the better proposal.