Melnyk strikes upbeat tone on LeBreton Flats following meeting with Watson

Ruddy, Watson, Melynk
From left, Trinity Development Group executive chairman John Ruddy, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melynk speak to reporters following a meeting at City Hall on Friday. (Photo courtesy of Livia Belcea)

An optimistic-sounding Eugene Melnyk said he’s “very confident” that the RendezVous LeBreton group’s ambitious plan to redevelop LeBreton Flats will go forward after a closed-door meeting with Mayor Jim Watson and other top city officials on Friday.

“I have more confidence today than ever,” the owner of the Ottawa Senators told reporters at City Hall. “There’s just some hurdles that have to be overcome.”

Melnyk, who is spearheading the RendezVous LeBreton plan along with Trinity Development Group executive chairman John Ruddy, wouldn’t go into details on what those obstacles are, saying only they are “nothing insurmountable.”

Melnyk said the group will be filing official development applications with the city soon, adding he and his partners are “close” to reaching a master agreement with the National Capital Commission, which owns the 21-hectare parcel of land just west of downtown.

“We will get there,” he said, adding he hasn’t requested any financial help from outside sources. “We are fully capable of funding our portion of what we need to accomplish.”

Calling the gathering a “very good, productive meeting,” Watson said Melnyk, Ruddy and city officials had a “thorough discussion on a wide range of issues” but wouldn’t divulge specific details.

The mayor reiterated the city’s support for the project, saying he doesn’t want the approval process to become a “hindrance” to getting shovels in the ground.

“We’ve told our staff that this is a project that we want to roll out the red carpet and not the red tape on,” Watson said. “We want to be a willing partner.”

Melnyk, who has suggested in the past he might stay put at the Canadian Tire Centre rather than move the team downtown, said Friday the situation was “fluid,” adding he has no intention of moving the franchise elsewhere.

With Trinity and Claridge Homes recently announcing plans to build thousands of other residential units within a few blocks of LeBreton Flats, Melnyk said he’s waiting for the results of studies on whether the neighbourhood can support another major housing development.

“We’ll let the professionals come to their conclusions,” he said, adding the LeBreton project has not been scaled back at this point. “We’re trying to work through that.”

The NCC and RendezVous LeBreton reached a deal in principle in January on the $4-billion plan to redevelop LeBreton Flats, which has sat empty for decades. The multi-stage proposal would include a new NHL arena for the Senators, a community centre, 4,000 housing units and public spaces.