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LeBreton Flats to take shape in 2021 with new pathway, initial developments

Claridge Homes received NCC approval for the two defined towers at the top of the rendering as part of its East Flats project. via NCC

The long-vacant LeBreton Flats lands just west of downtown Ottawa will begin to take shape later this year with the construction of a new multi-use pathway and plans for new high-rise developments in the area.

The National Capital Commission, which oversees and owns much of the 55-acre swath of land, outlined and approved a series of city-building projects on LeBreton Flats in its first board meeting of 2021 on Thursday.

Katie Paris, head of the NCC’s LeBreton Flats file, unveiled designs for a kilometre of new segregated pathways connecting Pimisi Station to nearby Bayview Station along the light-rail transit line as well as to the Sir John A. Macdonald pathway by the Ottawa River.

Preliminary designs for a pathway connection Pimisi Station to Bayview and the Sir John A. Macdonald pathway through LeBreton Flats. via NCC

Paris said the path is meant to “reintroduce” residents and visitors to the LeBreton area, with public space elements such as a plaza at Pimisi and viewing platforms surrounding the historic aqueduct.

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The NCC will launch a public consultation for elements residents would like to see in the pending pathway on Friday, with construction expected to begin in the summer and wrap up before the end of the year.

The NCC board also approved plans for a pair of 25- and 30-storey towers as part of Claridge Homes’ East Flats projects. The Crown corporation sold off a parcel of land bordered by Fleet, Lett and Lloyd streets to the local developer in 2004, but retained approval rights on any project.

Read more: Ottawa community groups seek binding benefits agreement with NCC on LeBreton Flats

The two proposed buildings, marking the fourth phase in Claridge’s five-phase plan for the site, will add a total of 595 residential units to the Flats, which are slated to be a mix of rental, condo and affordable housing units with sizes ranging from studios to three-bed apartments.

The proposal also comes with plans for a daycare and two floors of retail space in a podium, which Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson — also a member of the NCC’s board — pushed to be dedicated to a grocery store, flagging the area’s current status as a “food desert.”

Watson was told the NCC doesn’t have the power to prescribe specific retail uses for the site, but the developer has laid out plans for a “main street”-style boulevard as part of its five-phase plan, ultimately including food services, pharmacies and other essential services on the strip.

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Construction on the two East Flats towers could begin as soon as this summer, subject to final approvals from the city.

The NCC also expects to have a preferred proponent in place this year to develop its library parcel of land, just west of the future site of Ottawa and the federal government’s shared central library facility.

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The landowner opened up requests for qualifications at the end of last October, and while it expected to cut off submissions on Jan. 15, the deadline was extended to Feb. 8.

NCC chief executive Tobi Nussbaum told reporters Thursday that interest is strong in developing the piece of prime land, but the deadline was pushed three weeks back amid requests related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more: Rideau Canal Skateway to open ‘early next week’, NCC head says

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A shortlist of proponents will be presented to the NCC board at its April meeting, after which the Crown corporation will open up requests for proposals for the site at 665 Albert St.

If approvals and land transfers go according to schedule, shovels could be in the ground on the project by 2022.

As for any major events centre proposed as part of the grand vision for LeBreton Flats, Nussbaum said there was no news on any such facility to start the year.

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