NCC takes next step in LeBreton Flats development

Andrew Duffy – Ottawa Citizen

Various views of Lebreton Flats area: canal and construction areas behind Pimisi LRT station. Photographed May 29, 2019. Julie Oliver/Postmedia
A section of LeBreton Flats near Pimisi Station, as it looked in 2019. PHOTO BY JULIE OLIVER /Postmedia

The National Capital Commission will take a major step later this month toward the redevelopment of one parcel of land on LeBreton Flats.

The NCC announced Tuesday that it will release a “request for qualifications” to develop the one-hectare site, just east of Pimisi LRT station, at the end of October. Such a request is designed to ensure there’s a qualified group of developers willing and able to submit proposals.

It’s the first phase of what’s expected to be a decades-long, multi-stage development process to remake the 29-hectare LeBreton Flats site.

“I’m very pleased that after a few months of Covid-related delays, we’re ready to move ahead with the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats,” CEO Tobi Nussbaum told the NCC’s board of directors meeting Tuesday.

Development of what’s known as the library parcel — the land is just west of the site for Ottawa’s super library — had been delayed by physical-distancing restrictions imposed by the pandemic. The parcel of land is north of Albert Street, east of Booth Street.

Katie Paris, the NCC’s director of major real estate development and the leader of its Building LeBreton project, said the commission will be seeking “the most innovative developers to partner in bringing the LeBreton vision to life.” The library parcel has updated zoning that allows for a wide range of commercial and residential uses, she said.

“This site could have multiple towers,” Paris said, “including the possibility of building over the east side of the Pimisi O-Train station, creating an unprecedented opportunity for a truly transit-oriented development integrated directly with the LRT.”

Paris said the NCC will launch a request for qualifications Oct. 30 so that it can “prequalify” development teams that share the commission’s vision for the site. Among other things, the NCC wants the site to feature a net-zero design for carbon emissions, and include affordable housing, pedestrian and cycling connections to existing pathways, and cultural components.

Development teams approved by the NCC will be invited to submit proposals in the first half of 2021. A development partner is expected to be chosen by the end of next year with construction beginning as early as 2022, she said.

Paris said the NCC wants a range of housing options on the library parcel. “It is essential to honouring LeBreton Flats as a working class community,” she said, adding: “The NCC itself is not an affordable housing provider. This strategy recognizes the NCC owns the land that can create opportunties for affordable housing, but we need to be aligned with our federal and municipal parnters, along with the developers, to actually implement affordable housing options.”

The NCC decided to redevelop LeBreton Flats in pieces after giving up on the ambitious Rendezvous LeBreton plan two years ago. That plan, which featured an NHL arena as its centrepiece, was the product of a partnership between Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and Trinity Development chair John Ruddy and their companies that dissolved into a poisonous legal dispute.

Paris said an economic impact study has estimated that the Building LeBreton plan will generate 1,700 construction jobs per year, and add more than $1.2 million in annual development charges to city coffers. The city will also collect an additonal $13.7 million in annual property taxes once the development is completed.

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