Jan. 29th, 2016

We finally have two visions for Lebreton Flats on the table. Sort of. The bidders aren't allowed to publicly discuss financing, or so they say. Nonetheless, the two proposals have captured public interest in Ottawa, with presentations to standing-room-only crowds earlier this week.

If I had to choose one or the other, I'd go with the DCDLS proposal, Lebreton Reimagined. I quite like the idea of Lebreton Flats as a kind of cultural hub, with museums, a major library, and plenty of parkland and space for outdoor festivals and other activities, all anchored by accessible public transit. If it rejuvenates the west side of downtown and revitalizes the Sparks Street pedestrian mall after many decades of relative dormancy, then so much the better! I'd also like to see a more extensive underground city, given that Ottawa is by many measures the world's coldest and snowiest national capital, not to mention having one of the highest incidences of freezing rain in the country. If Montreal is the city we're trying to emulate at the moment - and I get the sense it is, given that Montrealer Melanie Jolie is responsible for the Capital Region, our PM spent a good deal of his childhood and youth there, and the possible partnership between the Ottawa Public Library and Library and Archives Canada would be to a great extent modelled on Montreal's La Grande Bibliotheque - then maybe there really is a future for Underground Ottawa. Of course, Place de Ville was modelled on Montreal's Place Ville Marie but has met the same fate as the aforementioned (and adjoining) Sparks Street Mall! Dare we hope that while Ottawa was not ready for it in the 1960s, it may be now, or at least by 2020?

The main problem I have with both bids is that while my Canada and my National Capital Region definitely include Quebec, they don't include a hockey stadium in downtown Ottawa. I have nightmares of not being able to get anywhere NEAR the library (or for that matter the other cultural attractions) on game nights! As for this notion that we must also have condos and a shopping centre on the site, I sometimes wonder what planet these people think they're on. This city is already overloaded with condos and cold, impersonal big-box shopping centres! The representative for the DCDLS proposal said that there's something for everyone in the package. To me, that's precisely the problem. I think if you set out to be all things to all people, you usually end up doing nothing really well.

I guess time will tell, although I don't know if I'll actually live long enough to see the outcome of all this!



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