Devcore boss ‘confident’ Senators will play at LeBreton

Before a gag order was imposed on the two groups vying to redevelop LeBreton Flats, Devcore president Jean-Pierre Poulin told OBJ the process was “fair” and he was confident the Senators will eventually play at the site no matter who wins the bid.

“I think it’s all exciting for Ottawa,” Mr. Poulin said in an interview on Feb. 8, just a couple of hours before the National Capital Commission’s deadline for public comments by the two competing consortiums.

“We have one chance to do this right to make (LeBreton Flats) the best it can be.”

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Both the Devcore Canderel DLS Group’s LeBreton Re-Imagined bid and the IllumiNATION LeBreton bid led by the Ottawa Senators and Trinity Development Group include plans for an NHL-calibre arena.

But Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has publicly stated he will never sell the team and won’t be a tenant in a building he doesn’t own. While there have been suggestions that the DCDLS group would make an offer to buy the Senators if it wins the bid, Devcore’s president would say only that he believes a deal can be worked out to ensure the team will play at LeBreton Flats.

“It’s all about can we sit around the table to do what’s best for the city and for Canada,” he said. “I’m confident that if we can, we’ll be able to get something done.”

Although the NCC originally told both groups they would have only two days in late January to sell their proposals to the public, it eventually extended the viewing period to Feb. 8. Mr. Poulin said at least 1,500 people came to check out models of the DCDLS proposal that were set up in Constitution Square at 340 Albert St., including about 300 on the final day.

“We welcomed the extra time and I think it was a good idea (to extend the deadline),” he said. “I think the process has been working so far if you look at the quality of the proposals.”

While some of the glitzier and more ambitious elements of the DCDLS proposal have garnered the lion’s share of the headlines, including the arena, a new public library and a car museum, the plan also mentions an “Innovation Centre” that would eventually be part of the mixed-use development.

The centre would include two towers with 20 and 25 storeys containing nearly 800,000 square feet of space that would be located at the west end of LeBreton Flats. DCDLS calls the envisioned area “a vibrant hub for the innovative research work being done” to support startup initiatives in conjunction with the nearby Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards slated to open later this year.

“I think there’s a synergy in that area,” Mr. Poulin said, suggesting companies based in the towers could work together with the startups at Bayview Yards.

The proposed towers would not be built until Phase 2 of the project, he added, meaning they are probably at least a decade away.

In the meantime, Mr. Poulin said, the LeBreton Re-Imagined proposal would promote innovation through partnerships with institutions such as the Canada Science and Technology Museum. He said his group has already talked with museum officials about setting up “rotating exhibits” from its collection in various offices and public places at LeBreton Flats.

For example, he said the museum is keen to loan some of the 100 vehicles in its possession to the World Automotive Experience centre featured in DCDLS’s plan, while some of the former’s collection of antique phones and telegraph equipment could be displayed at the proposed Canadian Communication Centre as a way of “cross-marketing” the institutions.

“There’s some treasure in there that should be accessible to everyone,” Mr. Poulin said.

Nearly 8,000 people submitted completed questionnaires on the proposals to the NCC after the bids were publicly unveiled on Jan. 26. A special committee will evaluate both proposals and make recommendations to the commission’s board of directors.

The proposals must score at least 60 per cent on each of six distinct requirements – the public anchor use, non-public anchor uses, the development plan, business terms, the financial implementation plan and ownership, management and financial capacity – to pass the evaluation. If neither bid passes, both could be rejected.

The committee’s recommendations will likely go to the NCC board for approval in late April. Any agreement must also be approved by cabinet, which is not expected to happen until next year.

This story originally appeared in the February 15 print edition of the Ottawa Business Journal.

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