“Unresolved issues” between the main business partners chosen by the National Capital Commission (NCC) to lead the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats are the one thing holding back the massive city-building project, the Crown corporation’s board members heard on Thursday.
NCC board members said they were unable to vote Thursday on several key items to help push the major project forward because of internal disagreements within the RendezVous LeBreton Group, a consortium led by Ottawa Senators and the Trinity Development Group Inc.
Instead, board members voted unanimously on a motion to give RendezVous LeBreton two months, until the board’s meeting near the end of January 2019, to sort out their issues, or else the NCC will “proceed with the next steps” – either under the current solicitation process or a new one.
“We are disappointed to have had to make this announcement and make this decision with regards to RendezVous LeBreton Group,” Mark Kristmanson, CEO of the NCC, told reporters after the board’s meeting. “Our attempts throughout the fall – with the (Ottawa) mayor, with the fairness monitor and so forth – to reach a resolution with those partners have not borne fruit. So now we are looking ahead to January and beyond to what we need to do to get the LeBreton Flats developed.”
Kristmanson said the main RendezVous partners – Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and Trinity Group executive chairman John Ruddy – have sought to change their corporate structure but “do not have mutual agreement” on a new governance model. The head of the NCC said he’s limited from sharing further details because of the “commercial confidentiality of the procurement process.”
Mayor Jim Watson, who sits as a non-voting member on the NCC board, called the conflict between the RendezVous partners “a disappointment” both for him and the city of Ottawa.
“They have to get their act together, plain and simple, otherwise I think we’re going to have to move on in January and I think that meeting will be the most significant because we’re either going to proceed … or we’ll have to bid adieu and start the process over,” Watson said.
Kristmanson and Watson didn’t specify what the board’s next steps would be should RendezVous LeBreton fail to work things out but Watson said they could involve “many other different options,” including a new request for proposals.
In meeting personally with the heads of Trinity and the Ottawa Senators, John Ruddy and Eugene Melnyk, Watson said he witnessed a “challenging relationship.”
Board members voted on the LeBreton motion during the public meeting after discussing the state of the project behind closed doors on Wednesday.
The NCC signed an agreement in principle with the RendezVous LeBreton Group on the proposed redevelopment of the 21-hectare site west of Ottawa’s downtown core in early 2018. That preliminary agreement was approved by the NCC’s board of directors on Jan. 24.
The centrepiece of RendezVous LeBreton’s $4-billion redevelopment proposal is a new home for the Ottawa Senators – an 18,000-seat NHL hockey arena – accompanied by 4,000 new housing units across five mixed-use neighbourhoods, a number of public spaces and a French-language public school.
The NCC board heard on Thursday morning that the Crown corporation had given RendezVous LeBreton a Nov. 1 deadline to resolve its “internal partnership issues,” ahead of today’s board meeting.
The consortium then asked for an extension until Nov. 8; on that day, two RendezVous LeBreton partners, the Trinity Group and Capital Sports Management Inc., advised the NCC they hadn’t been able to reach a resolution.
NCC board members expressed disappointment and frustration with this on Thursday.
“I was very unhappy to see that because of that one thing, we weren’t able to come here to today to make the decision on I think five items … because that business entity is not available,” board member Larry Beasley said.
The items in question included decisions on land decontamination and consultations with the Algonquin people.
After the NCC’s board meeting in September, Kristmanson told media the Crown corporation and RendezVous LeBreton were still negotiating a master design plan for the site. That development agreement would then need approval from the NCC’s board of directors and finally, the federal government.
The site in question is on federal land, but the city of Ottawa also has to sign off on municipal planning applications for the redevelopment of the former working-class neighbourhood.
Those planning applications involve public consultation. Watson said he’s advised the city’s planning department to hold off on launching public consultations on rezoning for LeBreton Flats until the board decides what next steps to take in January.
– More to come
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