LeBreton Flats arena deal: Ottawans have their say

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The Ottawans reacted quickly to the deal announced on Thursday to build a new arena for the Ottawa Senators at LeBreton Flats.

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After years of discussions and a plan to bring the facility to the already sunken area, residents say it’s time for a deal, though some have expressed concerns about whether the proposed add-on housing around the arena will be affordable. “They kind of need to change, but the city is investing in a lot of these types of developments instead of affordable housing,” resident Jeff Collins said shortly after the deal was announced.

The memorandum of understanding, announced Thursday by the National Capital Commission, which owns the undeveloped land at LeBreton Flats, will see senators and a bevy of wealthy partners build a new runway on a 7.5-acre lot on Albert Street between Preston Street and City Center Avenue.

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The NCC also said it will begin accepting offers next week on a new mixed residential development on Wellington Street, opposite the Canadian War Museum. This project, which will be known as the Flats District, will include up to 800 new housing units in six-story blocks with recessed towers from 12 to 20 floors. Housing will be modeled after neighborhoods in the Netherlands with narrow, curbless streets and a central aqueduct that currently flows underground through the area, the federal agency says.

Collins said it was time for the senators to move the stadium to the core and that it would likely go to games more often when it was built.

But he was concerned whether the promised housing component would be achievable for many, especially as rising prices make housing increasingly unaffordable. “They’re going to build a bunch of expensive condos around it, which will only drive people further and further away from the center of town,” he said. “I think it should be a more diverse area for people to live in – no one can afford to live in Centretown”

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For Julie Hay, bringing the arena downtown will make it more accessible to residents outside of Kanata and even across the river. “I love the idea because I live close by and I can walk or take the subway – it’s ideal for everyone.

“I think it will bring people back downtown, it’s close to Quebec and downtown Ottawa”

Hay said the location of the senators’ current arena – the Canadian Tire Center – makes it very difficult to watch the games. “I don’t get off at the west end, just getting out of the parking lot is impossible, so now I’m taking the light train.”

Craig Pickthorne, who lives in LeBreton Flats, agreed, saying the arena “really should have been built there in the first place.

“In all cities (the arenas) are a vital part of the city centre. So it never really belonged [in Kanata] first and I think most people would agree with that.”

Dan Campbell also said the move to LeBreton means he is likely to play more Senators games. “I think he would be more apt to go to games if he was moved, especially [since] trains do not leave for Kanata.”

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