The National Capital Commission is welcoming new ideas for a possible sports arena, events centre or other major attraction to stimulate development at LeBreton Flats, the long-vacant swath of land in central Ottawa.
The Crown corporation opened the floodgates on Wednesday, hoping to draw expressions of interest from major developers and other prospective groups with big ideas for the prime real estate just off Albert Street and between the Bayview and Pimisi light-rail stations.
The NCC is serving up two parcels of land at LeBreton Flats for development: one is a 2.5-hectare site that it says would be suitable for a “major events centre,” like a sports arena or concert hall; the other is a circular-shaped plot roughly a fifth of that size.
“These sites will become the anchors for the surrounding development, which is planned as one of the most sustainable and inclusive communities in Canada,” NCC chief executive Tobi Nussbaum said in a statement calling for proposals.
While the NCC floats that a sports arena, concert venue or exposition space could fit the bill, it says it’s “leaving the canvas blank” for creative and “financially sound” ideas.
The idea of a sports arena at LeBreton Flats isn’t a new one. The Ottawa Senators nearly scored a new downtown arena in a previous arrangement between team owner Eugene Melnyk and Trinity Development Group to develop the entire 29-hectare site, but that deal fell apart in a flurry of litigation between the scorned partners in 2019.
The NCC is hoping it’s learned from that failure by carving up LeBreton Flats into more manageable parcels this time, with plans already in motion for a development near the forthcoming central library at 555 Albert St.
Proposals have to meet a few specific and general criteria to be considered. Pitches should speak to themes of enhancing the “capital experience,” as well as building community, honouring the past and valuing nature, to name a few.
While the public-facing attraction is key, the NCC says other elements such as retail or residential spaces can also be incorporated into the final development.
The Crown corporation and holder of the land expects to negotiate a long-term lease of the grounds with whichever bidder is successful.
Applicants have until Feb. 28, 2022 to get their expressions of interest in, with evaluations expected to wrap up before May of next year.
A short list of candidates will then be invited to the next phase of the procurement for one or both sites, or the NCC could decide to negotiate directly with the strongest proponent.
There’s no timeline yet on when shovels would be in the ground for whatever attraction succeeds in capturing the NCC’s imagination.