Aquarium? Ferris wheel? NCC is ready to take pitches on LeBreton Flats attractions

Two parcels are the subject of the NCC’s request for expressions of interest, scheduled for release on Wednesday.

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The National Capital Commission on Wednesday is launching a new process to determine what major attractions should be built at LeBreton Flats, with hopes of drawing experienced and credible contenders to pitch their visions.


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People have talked up an aquarium, museum, gallery, ferris wheel, and of course, a National Hockey League-calibre arena as the perfect anchor event centre for a redeveloped LeBreton Flats.

Now, the NCC is asking development teams with the chops to pull off a major project to make their pitches.

“It’s a process intended to open a door and not to be scaring folks off,” said Katie Paris, the NCC’s director of the LeBreton Flats project.

“There are a lot of things we don’t yet have in Ottawa that we think could be very well-situated at LeBreton Flats.”

The last time a major event centre was part the LeBreton Flats discussion was when the Ottawa Senators and Trinity Developments won preferred status to build a new arena and mixed-use development on the site. The falling out between the two companies sent the NCC back to the drawing board.


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Since then, the NCC has restarted planning work for LeBreton Flats under CEO Tobi Nussbaum and has decided on a phased approach to developing the massive federal property.

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Armed with a master plan for LeBreton Flats, the NCC is ready to see what amenity can anchor the site and to give developers in future phases an idea of how to tailor their plans to suit the new mixed-use community.

Two parcels are the subject of the NCC’s request for expressions of interest, scheduled for release on Wednesday.

The larger, 6.3-acre site is east of Bayview Station between City Centre Avenue and Preston Street. Another 1.2-acre site is at the heart of LeBreton Flats in the aqueduct district, described as a “cultural hub” and “entertainment district” in the larger redevelopment.


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Paris says it’s a true blue-sky exercise with few parameters.

“We want to somebody to have the capacity and the ability to implement the vision,” Paris said, “but, if you are an innovator, if you are someone with a big idea, well, you get yourself in a team with a bunch of people who have done those things, so we need to see your capacity as a team for your big idea.”

Paris says proposals should first respond to what the NCC has laid out in the concept plan for LeBreton Flats. The agency has developed strategies around parks and public realm, mobility, sustainability, culture and housing. It’s also working on an Algonquin Nation Partnership Strategy.

An April 21 file photo of LeBreton Flats.
An April 21 file photo of LeBreton Flats. Photo by Jean Levac /Postmedia

The request for expressions of interest is fairly basic, asking contenders to describe their experience and their ability to carry through on their visions and to provide a letter from a financial institution confirming their credit information.


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The land transaction would likely be a long-term lease, but the price hasn’t been determined and there’s no financial target, Paris said. Those numbers would be hammered out through negotiations.

Groups submitting proposals can include drawings of what they have in mind.

An internal committee at the NCC will evaluate the proposals. They will be scored out of 50 points: 30 points assigned to development and operating concept and 20 points for experience.

While Paris says the LeBreton Flats master plan has been based on public consultation, the NCC doesn’t intend to float the proposals publicly after the submission deadline in February.

The NCC has in its back pocket an alternative development option if it doesn’t like any of the proposals for the large attraction parcel. The alternative option would simply extend mixed-use development west on the site. Paris says the success of the entire LeBreton Flats redevelopment doesn’t hinge on the major attraction.


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Sorting out the attractions for LeBreton Flats is the next step in the larger redevelopment, which started on the east side of Booth Street on a 1.1-hectare parcel of land next to the future super library. Three mixed-use development proposals are being evaluated for that site.

The NCC is also building new pathways at LeBreton Flats connecting Bayview Station, Pimisi Station and the pathway along the Ottawa River.

The request for expressions of interest for major attraction sites will close on Feb. 28, 2022, with evaluations happening in March and April.

There would still be due diligence conducted by the NCC and negotiations with a top-ranked group.

Paris couldn’t say when ground would be broken for the attractions.

“Trying to predict that is not likely to be accurate. It really depends on the idea and the readiness of the partner to launch that idea and whatever pushes and pulls in the industry where they’re coming from,” Paris said, but she stressed that the NCC wouldn’t plod through the process.

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“We’re not letting grass grow under our feet. We’re going to move this forward at a clip.”

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