NCC to parcel out LeBreton Flats redevelopment, starting with land near central library

New CEO Tobi Nussbaum says project going forward with or without NHL arena
An aerial view of LeBreton Flats. Via NCC.

The National Capital Commission said Thursday morning it is moving ahead with a new process to redevelop LeBreton Flats, one that will start with a piece of land next to the new central library building and will happen with or without an NHL arena.

The NCC’s new chief executive, former Ottawa city councillor Tobi Nussbaum, told media at a news conference Thursday that although the Crown corporation liked many of the elements that came from the original request for proposals, the new RFP process will start from scratch with public consultations as well as discussions with the city and other parties.

Rather than handing over the entire 55-acre piece of land to a single consortium like RendezVous LeBreton – the previous winning bidder led by Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and Trinity Development Group – Nussbaum said the new process will see pieces of land parcelled off and developed in a phased approach. All previous bidders as well as new proponents will be able to submit proposals for the project’s various phases.

Consultation on a new overarching vision for LeBreton Flats will begin in June, with a formal plan presented to the NCC board of directors for approval in November. A series of new RFPs for various parcels of land will open up the following summer, with NCC approvals coming in spring 2021.

Nussbaum told media the NCC was looking to strike a “balance between ambition and humility” in developing the prime swath of land west of Ottawa’s downtown core.

The redevelopment will start with a 2.9-acre parcel of land between Booth Street and the forthcoming $192.9-million central library, a joint project between the city and Library and Archives Canada.

An RFP to develop the NCC-owned adjacent land, currently zoned for a high-density, mixed-use build, is expected to come in late 2019. NCC approval on the library district proposals will come in fall 2020, with construction expected to begin in spring 2021.

Nussbaum stressed that the NCC will be “flexible” in its latest attempt at redeveloping the long-vacant lands. While he said the agency is “open” to proposals that include a major events centre or NHL arena, he clarified that “it’s not essential.”

Instead, Nussbaum said development on the large site can occur while leaving the door open to the possibility of adding an arena or similar venue along the way.

“We have the capacity and sheer land to accommodate that,” he said. “This is not going to be done overnight.”

The NCC announced last month it was cancelling the original RFP process it launched back in 2014 following news that mediation had failed to resolve internal issues in the RendezVous LeBreton partnership.

Originally selected as the preferred proponent to redevelop the site, RendezVous LeBreton collapsed after Melnyk sued Trinity Development chief John Ruddy last November, claiming conflicts of interest related to the developer’s nearby 900 Albert St. project.