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An In-Depth Look at the RendezVous LeBreton Bid

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Now that we've had a bit more time with the public unveiling of the bids, here's a closer look at one of the bids.

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We've had a little more than a week with the unveiled LeBreton bids, and now that the initial reactions are over, it's time to look a little more closely at the bids. Here's a closer look at the IllumiNATION bid by the RendezVous LeBreton group, led by Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk.

The Major Event Centre

The MEC is the highlight of the Sens' bid. Most of us think of it as the Sens' arena, but the group want to emphasize that this is a lot more than just a hockey arena. The arena will have seating for 18,000, and the surrounding LeBreton square will have room for 28,000 more. They expect to have 175 events per year, which is 30 more than the CTC currently hosts. This is also expected to be one of the main sources of income for the group.

The arena would be stationed right in between the Bayview and Pimisi LRT stations, which is how the majority of attendees are expected to arrive. There are plans for permanent spaces devoted to the Governor General's Award, and for recent innovation presented by the Museum of Science and Technology, allowing visitors to see some of the most recent Canadian achievements. The plan is for the concourse to offer an unobstructed view of Parliament Hill, which apparently will have fireworks when people are at the arena:

Image courtesy of RLG handout - link

The Abilities Centre

The Sensplex practice facility will be moved to beside the arena, providing two NHL-sized rinks and a number of fitness facilities for the Sens and the surrounding community. Making the space unique is the focus on providing facilities for persons with disabilities, which would make it only the second such facility in the country, after the Abilities Centre in Whitby, ON. The hockey rinks would be used to host hockey tournaments, including (most likely) the Bell Capital Cup. The Centre would have space devoted to dance, music, and community events.

Image courtesy of RLG handout

Central Public Library

A key part of the community investment proposed by this bed is the inclusion of a new home for the Ottawa Public Library central branch (currently located at Metcalfe and Laurier). This would provide a roomier home for the library at (presumably) no cost to the public. The current land that belongs to the library could be sold, as I'm sure it would be some valuable commercial land.

There is one snag here, as the land on which the group proposes to build the library only belongs half to the NCC. The other half belongs to the City of Ottawa. But I can't see the city turning down an opportunity to expand the library and make a profit.

Image courtesy of RLG handout

Commercial and Residential Property

The plan is to have residential space with more than 4000 units. The group proposes to set aside a percentage of the units for low-income housing. In addition to the housing units, there would be an 800-room hotel and a number of office and retail spaces available for rent. A facility called Canada House would be provided for members the military, with short- and long-term subsidized housing available as well as a number of military-focused services.

Much of the area will be focused around the heritage aqueduct. This will be revamped as a waterfront attraction, lined with cafés and other retail space. As a sucker for waterfront property, this part excites me quite a bit.

Image courtesy of RLG handout

Added Features

There are a lot of plans for multimedia features on the site. Partnering with the Canadian Science and Technology Museum will produce a virtual science exhibit, focused around an Innovation Pavilion. The group is also partnering with a Montreal-based company called Moment Factory to produce outdoor animations for public events such as Canada Day, and that can be booked for a variety of private events as well.

Image courtesy of RLG handout

There are also a number of environmental initiatives in the proposal. Removal of about 1.2 million cubic metres of contaminated soil will have to take place before building can even commence. The group is committed to following the One Planet Action Plan to create a facility that exceeds the LEED Gold environmental standard. Combining with the Zibi Islands on the Chaudière Islands will create North America's largest EcoDistrict. The group is aiming to have the continent's first carbon neutral sports arena. Green roofs, community gardens, and lots of open park space will contribute to the environmental performances of the entire development.

Final Thoughts

Many people have pointed out that this proposal seems very similar to the Landsdowne redevelopment: arena, condos, green space. I think that's both the biggest strength and weakness of the proposal. On the bad side, it doesn't bring a lot to the city that isn't already here. On the plus side, a lot of the proposed features in the DCDLS bid (aquarium, auto museum, etc.) require companies to actually want to move those things into Ottawa. Ottawa isn't a massive city that can easily support a world class aquarium on the back of its tourist industry, which may lead to a lot of vacant large-scale entertainment facilities. But without ambition nothing big ever happens.

The NCC is asking for the public to answer its online questionnaire about the two proposals until Monday, February 8th.