NCC (Re)starts Consultation on the Redevelopment of Lebreton Flats

Written by Graeme Hussey

June 28, 2019

The National Capital Commission (NCC) has (re)started the consultation for the development of Lebreton Flats. Although it seems discouraging that we have failed to develop such a crucial part of our downtown, it is important that we get past our previous failings and focus on how we can make Lebreton Flats an Ottawa neighbourhood once again with affordable housing, complete streets, community amenities and public spaces.

The NCC intends to approach the redevelopment differently than the previously failed RFP that led to the Ottawa Senators plan to move downtown and instead create a Master Concept Plan to plot future development of the 59 acres. The NCC is currently conducting public consultation and expect to present and seek NCC Board approval in early 2020.

The consultation began with an Open House in mid-June and there is a public online survey that you can complete until July 2.

Many do not realize, but the redevelopment of Lebreton Flats actually began in the early 1980’s with the lands located on the south side of Albert Street, from approximately Booth to City Centre. These lands include market and affordable housing, including CCOC (private non-profit), Ottawa Community Housing and the  Dalhousie, Tompkins and Alex Laidlaw Housing Co-ops. This is a great example of mixed-income & mixed-tenure housing being developed to integrate into the existing community.

Sadly, the rest of Lebreton Flats has not followed in the same way or nearly as quick. In 2005, Claridge bought lands on the South East corner of Sir John A Parkway and Booth Street, much of this site is still being developed and the affordable housing has not yet been built.

While the public consultation is on-gong, in the fall 2019, the NCC will release a request for proposal to develop approximately 3 acres on the North East corner of Albert and Booth, called the Library district. The NCC is developing this piece of land immediately to assist in financing public realm improvements throughout the 59-acre Lebreton Flats site and because of the pending LRT opening and future library. Part of this site has been reserved by the City for affordable housing.

Most Ottawa residents want the same thing for Lebreton Flats. This includes a rebuilt mixed-income neighbourhood that allows people of all social and economic backgrounds the opportunity to live, work and play in the downtown of our National Capital, NOT an amusement park. A hockey rink seems to be a nice to have for some, but not crucial and a big distraction.

There are going to be voices in our City and on Parliament Hill who want to see this as a national site attracting visitors to Ottawa. I think a net-zero, mixed-use, sustainable, respectful and affordable neighbourhood is worth visiting?  People love to walk these neighbourhoods of New York or Barcelona or Montreal. Imagine Granville Island in Vancouver or the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, why not here?

To achieve a vibrant Lebreton Flats, Ottawa needs to dream bigger than a simple RFP and rethink our approach. A traditional RFP may not ensure we realize what that the community needs, but rather realize the vision of the RFP proponents.

How will an RFP ensure affordable housing can be financed in a way that ensures the rents are affordable to those on social welfare? Financing affordable housing and community amenities is going to be one of the biggest challenges to achieving the community vision for Lebreton Flats. To achieve housing affordable to all, including those on social welfare (Ontario Works), requires not only land but capital grants to offset the cost of construction. This can be done, but there are silos of responsibility among the various federal-Ministries and various levels of government. The NCC is the land owner, but CMHC is federally responsible for the National Housing Strategy and the City of Ottawa is responsible to administer affordable housing.

A coalition has formed to advocate for a Lebreton Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) to assist in securing community benefits such as affordable housing, social procurement and employment targeted for marginalized populations, among others. You can sign a petition if you support the idea of a Lebreton CBA. A CBA is a legal binding agreement that is meant to achieve social outcomes in large scale urban infrastructure projects. They have not been used as of yet in Ottawa, but there has been discussion in using it as part of the Herongate redevelopment and in Toronto recently there was a CBA for the Eglington LRT project.

What are your ideas to create a sustainable and affordable community at Lebreton Flats? Let’s get started…

Graeme Hussey

Cahdco President & CCOC Development Manager

June 28, 2019