The Feds have done significant damage to Lebreton Flats. First they razed it, dispossessing an entire community. They let it sit fallow, essentially rotting. They paved over it with stretches of freeway. They built some…imperfectly developed…condos, and then plunked down the War Museum without much thought to infrastructure or integration.
Now we have a chance to salvage the space, but there’s little to engender confidence in the current process.
The NCC put out an RFP for development plans. They had five potential bidders. They’ve just announced that they have only received two bids. Worse, both include a new hockey arena.
Two bids. That’s it. This land that should be important to Ottawa’s past and future may come down to a coin toss. This is no way to decide. Receiving only two bids (both with the same prominent feature) demonstrates that the NCC’s process is broken. They need to scrap it, now.
It’s not that a hockey arena is a bad idea. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it probably is, but it’s not like every downtown arena in North America is an urban development failure. However, there’s no reason to believe that this Commission in this city will be able to do it right.
The NCC has an unhealthy obsession with cars. They talk about building parks and developing waterfronts, but what they really mean is making a pretty backdrop for people racing down city expressways. It’s an outdated Robert Moses-esque view of the city; the land is there for the wealthy man being chauffeured around to look at as his ride goes 80.
(Naturally, this is why the Flats needed to be raised. Wealthy men riding around in cars should never be subjected to the sight of poor people. How unseemly.)
The city, too, has an unhealthy obsession with cars (though it appears that city planners are starting to realize that building a city around driving and parking is just batshit crazy). We have to drive. We have to park. We’ll plunge a bazillion dollars into LRT, but then we’ll starve public transit to ensure no one actually wants to use it.
If the NCC really wants to build a hockey arena (and why they hell would they? How could that possibly fit in their mandate), there should be no surface parking, none. There should be very minimal underground parking (again, probably none). There should be no freeways or road expansions to get more cars there.
LRT is running there. It’s downtown adjacent, in (what should be) a very walkable area.
But, really, the NCC shouldn’t care a bit about the Ottawa Senators, a team that has flirted with bankruptcy in the past. That won’t build a great capital. It might be a nice accessory, but it shouldn’t be a primary concern at all.
We need and deserve a new community implanted in Lebreton Flats. We need a mixture of uses, a mixture of residences and a mixture of residents. We need this land returned to the city, not gifted to a hockey team owned by a resident of the Barbados.