Thousands attended Lebreton Flats open house

They only had a two-day window, but thousands of people showed up this week to scrutinize the two groups vying to redevelop LeBreton Flats.

By Michael Woods.

About 1,900 people crammed into the Canadian War Museum’s main foyer to attend presentations Tuesday and Wednesday night, NCC CEO Mark Kristmanson said.

Another 2,000 visited the exhibition rooms showcasing the massive proposals and met with the the groups; RendezVous LeBreton, backed by Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, and Devcore Canderel DLS Group.

“We’ve never had a public consultation on this level before, so I’m really pleased,” Mr. Kristmanson said in an interview.

The NCC head suggested people's expectations for the competition may have been affected by the media debate kicked off by columnist Andrew Cohen, who decried Ottawa's lack of aspiration in a piece earlier this month.

“That sort of set the stage, and people were saying ‘Well, it’s LeBreton Flats it’s just going to be an arena and it’s not interesting,'" Mr. Kristmanson said. "The expectations for the poor old capital could hardly have been driven lower.”

"So I think when this came along, it’s fresh and it’s exciting and it’s obviously at a high level of urbanism,” he said. “I think people saw, ‘Wow, there’s major investors interested in LeBreton Flats who are willing to finance this huge development.’ So I think it got people’s enthusiasm going.”

The NCC is accepting online feedback on the proposals until Feb. 8 at midnight. As of Thursday morning, it had already received 2,000 comments.

Those comments will all be compiled into a report that heads to the NCC’s five-member evaluation committee. Mr. Kristmanson said that report will be made public when it’s finished.

He said the comments will inform the evaluation process, as well as the NCC's negotiations with the eventual winning group to hammer out a draft agreement.

Mr. Kristmanson said the two teams are already talking about adjusting their visions to take public feedback into account.

“To their credit, after the first night of consultations I heard members of both teams in separate conversations basically reacting to the public and saying well, we could change this or change that,” he said.

Questions abound about the financial details of the proposals, which both surely run into the billions of dollars, but are being kept private.

Mr. Kristmanson said that’s because it’s a commercial negotiation that will eventually head to the federal cabinet for approval.

“These two teams are at the peak of corporate competition to achieve this, so we have to make sure the fairness of the process is respected at every step,” he said.

“But we will make as much public as we can as we go along,” he added. “I don’t think we want to suggest there will be wraps of secrecy around this.”

Mr. Kristmanson also pointed out the terms of the NCC’s request for proposals were clear: the federal government isn’t offering any grants or subsidies to build on the land.

“Under the Treasury Board rules, we have to achieve fair market value and highest best use for the lands, and the promoters understand that."

This article originally appeared on metronews.ca on Jan. 28.