BLAIR CRAWFORD – Ottawa Citizen
The National Capital Commission hopes to have “shovels in the ground” next year after taking one more step forward on the long-delayed development of LeBreton Flats, approving a “preliminary master concept plan” at its board meeting Thursday morning.
The plan offers a bird’s-eye view of the design that will serve as a guide to planners and incorporates public feedback to the concepts first unveiled by the NCC in November.
“In some ways it’s a simplification and will ensure greater clarity on the fact that there are these four districts and areas all of which have common features,” NCC chief executive Tobi Nussbaum said.
Those four districts include the cultural and entertainment-focused Aqueduct District along the existing canal that supplies the Fleet Street Pumping Station, a mixed use “high street” concept in the Albert District, which will be anchored at the east end by Ottawa’s new central library, the primarily residential Flats District and the natural green space of the Park District.
When completed decades from now, the NCC hopes the nearly 29-hectare LeBreton Flats site will have 418,000 square metres of residential space, 116,000 square metres of office space and 21,000 square metres of retail space. The Flats could be home to 7,200 residents and provide up to 6,500 jobs. Nearly 13 acres, or 44 per cent of the total, will consist of parkland and open spaces.
The concept approved Thursday pays special attention to building heights, with a focus on mid-rise buildings of up to six storeys with higher towers set back from pedestrian areas and concentrated near the Pimisi and Bayview LRT stations at either end of the Flats. The street network within the flats will be designed for very low speeds of 10 to 30 km/h with limited parking to produce “intimate, human-scaled streets” that encourage people to get around on foot, by bicycle or on public transit.
Public feedback, gathered at a November open house and through online surveys, stressed the need for a grocery store in the area, which is now considered a “food desert.” Restaurants and pubs, family-sized living spaces and an “events centre” also ranked high. The least popular feature in public surveys? More condos.
Though the current plan doesn’t include a hockey arena — which was the centrepiece of the failed RendezVous LeBreton plan — there is room for a major event space between Pimisi and Bayview stations, said NCC chairman Marc Seaman.
“The plan’s very clear. We’re holding space there. We know that LeBreton Flats is a 20- to 30-year build out, as it was in the previous plan. We have a location between the two stations perfectly designed and aligned,” Seaman said.
“But was also knew as a board that we didn’t want all our eggs in one basket, so there’s flexibility around the development. The event centre, as we heard from the public consultations, is a key component of this plan. And we have a perfect location for it.”
The NCC hopes to tender its first procurements in the next couple of weeks and construction could begin on the site as soon as 2021.
Over the summer, the NCC will work with the city to adapt the LeBreton master concept plan to the City of Ottawa’s official plan. The NCC board will hold a final vote in the fall.