An open letter to Eugene Melnyk, community builder and owner of the Ottawa Senators

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Dear Mr. Melnyk,

LeBreton Flats, once a bustling neighbourhood, complete with residential housing and lively taverns, has stood largely empty for many years now, an unfinished project packed with potential.

It’s time LeBreton Flats made a comeback, Mr. Melnyk—and you are just the person to make it happen.

In an article in the Ottawa Citizen this morning, an unnamed spokesperson for the Senators said they, “feel very strongly that this could only be possible with strong community support.”

Count us in, Mr. Melnyk!

At the end of September, the National Capital Commission (NCC) announced it was seeking proposals to develop what it called the “most significant urban development site in Canada’s Capital.” The NCC said it is looking for proposals for a total of 9.3 hectares of land on LeBreton Flats—it will also accept proposals for an additional 12.3 hectares of what it calls “optional lands.”

The NCC calls it a prime strategic location for a signature attraction, one that must have “commercial, residential or recreational elements that would support its financial viability.” Although NCC chief executive Mark Kristmanson is hesitant to offer ideas, he did concede that the development “could include” a downtown hockey arena.

Yes, it could.

Mr. Melnyk, There are some real possibilities here. Moving your (our!) Ottawa Senators to the city core would bring them much closer to their east-end and Gatineau-area fans while providing a venue for other local festivals during the year—all within walking distance of the downtown core. And the light-rail transit Confederation Line will stop right at your front door.

I know what you are thinking, Mr. Melnyk. “We just finished renovations and added extra capacity—the Canadian Tire Centre still has as much as 30 years of life in it.”

You are absolutely right—and we can take advantage of that. Why not turn it into a first-rate shopping experience? Maple Leaf Gardens now houses a much-needed Loblaws Superstore.

Remember the historic Montreal Forum? That is now a popular spot with theatres, shops and restaurants. And the new Bell Centre that replaced the forum sparked new development all around it including a condominium tower and the soon-to-open 26-storey Deloitte Tower that includes almost a half-million square feet of office space, and 20,000 square feet of retail space. Similar development at LeBreton Flats could spur new development unlike Ottawa has seen in the recent past.

The city projects growth of 37% in the population over the next 15 years. This bodes well for both a shopping complex in Kanata and a first-class attraction downtown.

Clustered with the new 75-store Tanger Outlets complex right off the highway and a new—huge—Bass Pro Shop, the new Kanata shopping experience could also offer plenty of parking.

The retail market in Ottawa is hot, right now, Mr. Melnyk. Highlighting that are the influx of major new retailers and the ongoing expansions of both the Rideau Centre and the Bayshore Shopping Centre. The timing for the redevelopment of LeBreton couldn’t be better.

Federal Minister John Baird seems to be onside, too. While he won’t come right out and say the Sens being downtown is a good idea, this morning he told the Ottawa Citizen, “I’ve travelled quite a bit and I’ve never seen a major sports arena in the middle of nowhere.”

He said recently that his government’s “only desire is to see excellence” at the site. “We’ve got to set the bar very high. We don’t have the opportunity many times in the capital to reinvigorate and build something extraordinary.”

Build something extraordinary.

It can be done, Mr. Melnyk. As a community builder and a man of vision, you are the person who can get it started.

Are you up for the challenge?

5 comments

I don’t know about the numbers but this is a great idea.

I believe this would be a great location for a down town area complex.

Well said !

Perhaps if he could build a winning team first, that might be a step in the right direction.

Hmmm! As a Carp resident, entrepreneur and sustainability steward, I am interested in knowing more.

If the NCC, Mr Melnyk, the City and all other stakeholders, including Inside Edge, are prepared to collaborate or push for a model of integrative sustainable development with the highest standard of corporate social responsibility, before, during and after construction, then I will not only be behind it, but brag about it every opportunity I get.

With all the knowledge and tools now available that now exist and a visionary like Mr Melnyk, we should expect nothing less. And with all that we now know about development impacts, we can afford nothing less.

I look forward to learning more about this.

Renée Gratton

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