Redevelopment of LeBreton library lands on pause until NCC sees 'signs of market recovery'

LeBreton image
A portion of the NCC's new vision for LeBreton Flats. File photo

The first phase of the LeBreton Flats redevelopment project will remain in a holding pattern until the National Capital Commission sees more signs of “stabilization” in the Ottawa real estate market following the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency said Thursday.

The NCC, which owns the 55-acre parcel of land just west of the downtown core, was scheduled to launch the development process for property at 665 Albert St. near the future home of Library and Archives Canada and the main branch of the Ottawa public library earlier this spring.

However, the agency put the call for proposals to develop the land on hold in late April due to the coronavirus pandemic. During an update on the LeBreton Flats project on Thursday, NCC director of major real estate development Katie Paris said the process remains on pause, citing “many uncertainties” in the local marketplace. 

She said a study of 115 local real estate executives conducted by Altus Group in April suggested that more than 50 per cent of retail and multi-residential projects in the capital were being suspended indefinitely due to the economic upheaval sparked by the pandemic. Paris told the NCC’s board of directors the RFP process for the library lands will be launched “when we see signs of market recovery.”

Paris said a public advisory group on the LeBreton Flats project consisting of industry and community members is expected to meet for the first time this summer. The final master plan for the project is slated to be unveiled before the end of the year.

The agency’s latest attempt to redevelop LeBreton Flats comes after the previous consortium that had been chosen to lead the project fell apart amid legal wrangling. 

The RendezVous LeBreton Group, a partnership led by Trinity Development Group and Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, collapsed in late 2018 after Melynk’s Capital Sports Management announced it was suing Trinity and executive chairman John Ruddy for $700 million, citing conflicts of interest related to other Trinity projects near LeBreton Flats. Trinity later launched a $1-billion countersuit against Melnyk and Capital Sports Management.

The commission’s latest draft plan calls for the prime parcels of real estate at LeBreton Flats to be developed over stages, as builders respond to requests for proposals to develop distinct sections of the site. 

Once the final draft plan is approved by the NCC board and the City of Ottawa, the Crown corporation will begin to roll out its RFPs over the following 12 months.