With speculation swirling about whether an NHL arena could be coming to LeBreton Flats, the National Capital Commission said Thursday it has received multiple pitches for a major attraction at the coveted development site west of downtown.
The NCC wouldn’t say how many proposals it received. It also didn’t reveal the identities of the developers who submitted pitches or whether those plans could potentially include a new home for the Ottawa Senators. The agency said only that it was still evaluating the bids and hopes to finalize the process in the next couple of weeks.
A 60-day negotiating period will follow, with the goal of entering into a letter of intent with the preferred proponent in June. The NCC says it will provide more information to the public at its board meeting that month.
Negotiations will then begin on a lease, a process that’s expected to conclude by the end of the year.
"It’s not that we’re trying to be secretive. It’s really that we’re trying to give this process the best chance of success moving forward."
“We’re very excited about the project in general,” Laura Mueller, the NCC’s chief of planning and engagement for the LeBreton project, told the Crown corporation’s board of directors on Thursday. “There’s a lot of momentum.”
NCC chief executive Tobi Nussbaum later told reporters the organization is “taking the time to get it right” when it comes to choosing what kind of attractions will ultimately occupy the two parcels of land that are up for grabs.
“It’s not that we’re trying to be secretive,” he said. “It’s really that we’re trying to give this process the best chance of success moving forward.”
The NCC launched the request for expressions of interest last December, and proponents had until Feb. 28 to submit their pitches. The organization wants to put attractions on two sites – a 6.3-acre parcel of land east of Bayview Station between City Centre Avenue and Preston Street and a 1.2-acre property in the aqueduct district along an inlet of the Ottawa River.
The NCC says the sites will become “anchors” for the surrounding development, which is expected to eventually house 7,500 residents and employ 4,000 workers.
Possible attractions floated for the sites include everything from concert halls and ferris wheels to a museum and, of course, an NHL rink. The agency says the proposals are “hoped to be a regional, national and international draw for sports, music and entertainment, arts and culture and/or recreational purposes.”
Contenders were required to provide information on their background and experience developing major projects along with a letter from a financial institution confirming their creditworthiness.
An NCC committee is evaluating the proposals on a 50-point scale, with 30 points assigned to the development and operating concept and 20 points to experience in building major projects.
Supporters of moving the Senators’ home closer to the downtown core have long pushed for an NHL-calibre arena to be a cornerstone of the NCC’s long-term plan to redevelop the Flats.
The NHL team and Trinity Development Group were the NCC’s preferred bidders to build an arena and mixed-use development on the site in a process that was launched a few years ago. But that plan fell apart in 2019 amid legal wrangling between the partners, forcing the NCC to go back to the drawing board.