Mayor Watson wants city to have a greater say on LeBreton redevelopment

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson wants the city of Ottawa to have a louder voice when it comes to the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats.

At the beginning of Wednesday's city council meeting Watson announced his intention to launch formal negotiations with RendezVous LeBreton Group and the National Capital Commission over the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats. Watson has tasked staff with preparing a report about the risks and benefits of such a partnership and will ask councillors on FEDCO to review the findings in the near future.

"This development has the potential to be a tremendous City-building opportunity. We need to be at the table to ensure that the public areas within the LeBreton Flats redevelopment are distinctive, but also developed in a manner that is consistent with the City’s urban design and accessibility standards," the Mayor said. 

When asked whether the city would help pay for the new arena, Watson did not say no. Instead, Watson said any "asks" will have to be weighed.

"My bottom line is that whatever is being asked is there a return on our investment? Whether it's property taxes or development charges or increased market value of the property. Right now we are getting precious little from that abandoned site." 

Melnyk’s Rendezvous Lebreton group beat a rival group lead by Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte for the right to build on the land just east of the downtown. In an exhaustive review of both bids the NCC said the Senator’s backed bid made more sense, and scored higher for a variety of reasons.

This is one major step in a long process, but the Senators group promised in their bid that a new arena would be ready for the puck to drop by September of 2021.

The Ottawa Senators said it is too early to discuss what will happen with the Canadian Tire Centre, a major economic hub in Kanata, but Kanata North Councillor Marianne Wilkinson is hopeful Watson's proposed partnership will be good for Kanata residents. 

"If we help them with the downtown, they will also help us with Kanata," she said. "It's not mutually exclusive. It's part of a package." 

Wilkinson said she would like to see the group turn the existing NHL arena into a destination spot, featuring anything from an amusement park like Canada's Wonderland in Toronto to a water park. 

Local business owners like Richard Valente, the owner of Fratelli's, said Kanata businesses have survived lockouts in the past and have a strong, loyal base of support in the west-end. He is hopeful the senators' likely depature will usher in a new era. 

"There is all that land, hotels and malls," Valente said. "Something will happen there. We have a lot of support in the west-end."