LeBetter Flats countdown (ii) the arenas

The NCC’s latest call for ideas on what to do with the Flats seems to me to be purpose-written with the idea for a stadium/arena. It won’t be the first, or the last, political document crafted with the results in mind. Strategic planning in Ottawa is never found in official strategic plans, it is found in developers’ foresight, aka spotting an opportunity.

So what might an arena on the Flats look like? First, it shouldn’t have more than 20 surface parking spots, unlike, say Kanata. Here is the  current Sens arena and parking lots superimposed on the Flats:

Stadium - Bad fit (cropped)

An arena with very little parking would fit  along side Booth Street, a very short walk from Pimisi transit Station:

Stadium - Nice fit

Pimisi station is being built where you see the short lineup of buses in the pic below:

Stadium - Nice fit (cropped)

Caveat: cutting and pasting the Cdn Tired Centre onto the Flats, sans surrounding development, makes it look a tich bleak and barren. The danger is that any scheme, no matter how bad, that a proponent sketches in for the surroundings will evoke a sigh of relief in the Mr and Mrs Public who might think that looks nice.

Nice, however, is not good enough.

I sure don’t know how developers will phase their dream developments in a situation like this. In Kanata, the arena came first, and the adjacent real estate developments much later (and many still aren’t coming, which is one of the problems for the owners …).

But if the promoters of an arena need to get cash flow from adjacent development to fund the arena, we might see condos and offices first, with the arena following, in which case the Booth lands could be urban development and the arena pushed to the west side of the Preston extension, still close to both Pimisi and Bayview Stations:

Stadium - Bayview (cropped)

The further west location might better suit the NCC’s desire for a national / regional attraction that helps unite the metropolitan region that remains divided into two solitudes: Ottawa and Gatineau, since it would be on the cross of the east-west Confederation LRT line and the north-south Trillium Line which could be potentially connected to Gatineau via an extension over the Prince of Wales RR bridge to the STO transitway / “fleur de lis” LRT line.*

However, the NCC rarely sees transit as a city building opportunity, but always sees roads in this role. Might carbon neutrality and reducing green house gas emissions play a role in pushing for a 100% transit share of attendees? (more on this later).

A downtown arena is not necessarily an awkward fit into the Flats. In earlier stories, we looked at Amway arena in downtown Orlando, which offers lots of examples of good




but even more bad, (lack of) integration, with huge blank walls, and a parking garage as big as the arena:



We also looked at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, a much more attractive and well-intentioned integration into a revitalized port and urban area (stalled with too much “temporary” surface parking due to slack real estate demand and a fundamentally hostile climate to walking):




with toy trolley transit and a wasteland of parking garages:



TD Boston Gardens, in contrast, has a major transit station underneath, and depends on indoor parking at nearby downtown office buildings for drive-in clients, which might also work on the Flats if downtown garages stay open game and event nights:

Stadium - boston with green line

Another arena above transit is in NYC:

Madison Square Garden Cross-Section

Can a new Sens arena fit on LeBreton Flats, and still leave room for other developments? Definitely yes.

Can it be well integrated into the adjacent development? Yes, in theory.

In practice, well that depends on what gets built, when, and by who. A key proponent for the Arena idea is Trinity Development, which brought us Lansdowne Park. We wont go overs its problems again, but there is reason for optimism as neighbourhood acceptance and use of the Lansdowne facility grows, and presumably we have learned something from the experience. A trial run, so as to speak.

Will it become an attractive public space?

Again, depends on what we accept from the planners. Planners and politicians LOVE plans with big public spaces, since they superficially look like special places. And we already have one of those in the neighbourhood park, ie bluesfest field. I invite all those politicians and planners to take a walk around the Flats right now, in January.

In contrast, another school of urban planning — join here — wants to avoid large windswept cold places in favour of tight spaces, much tighter than we have ever seen in Ottawa. But I dont see the NCC or Trinity taking a “risk” on intimate spacing similar to or tighter than the Distillery area in Toronto.

Here are some links to those previous stories …

Amalie Arena, part i, an attractive downtown arena

Amalie Arena, part ii, building a better city

For Amway arena (Orlando) stories, click …

What a New Senator’s Arena could look like on LeBreton Flats

Amway Center (part ii) adjacent streets and parking

Amway Center, part iii, is it a catalyst for urban neighbourhoods?



*the mention of a Fleur de Lis LRT line in Gatineau is a cute moniker of my invention since there isn’t any hope Gatineau Qc would accept a name like Trillium, symbolic of anglo Ontario’s government. The name doesn’t matter; but if the arena is to be accessible to the Quebec side, ie the NCC’s nation building, then there has to be better access. But given a sub-optimal choice, I have no doubt we will seize it, and turn the Pr of Wales bridge into a road bridge or something similarly short sighted.

4 thoughts on “LeBetter Flats countdown (ii) the arenas

  1. Other than the fact it’s in Kanata, with nothing around? Once you’ve lived in a city with a real transit system and central sports facilities you can easily get to – and go out before and after – you’ll understand why an arena in a field is a foolish proposition.

  2. The problem with locating things like the Paladium/Scotia Centre/Canadian Tire Centre in a field is that most of the time they are empty and unused. Traditionally successful stadia and large indoor arenas need to be in a thriving functioning neighborhoods, where people live and work.

    This is the biggest problem behind the whole Lebreton Flats are a. We so want to build something great that, the public have waited decades for someone (name the level of government or agency), NCC, City of Ottawa, Province of Ontario, Government of Canada, heck even developers, try to create some place of national or international importance by placing the right development or developments (again name your anchor site or super-building of choice) into some perfect building or area arrangement that, we have forgotten what makes a great location in the first place. People have to be able to function and live there, comfortably without having to be constantly reminded by someone else, that they live and or work in some special place of significance. People can come to that conclusion all on their own, thanks. Instead of just building a good neighborhood with some good, useful and interesting basic designs and some possibly odd or just interesting sites that then can be adapted to be used by governments, agencies or anyone else.

    As a planner and someone who didn’t grow up here locally, one of the most interesting places in Ottawa I have found didn’t start life as its present use. What I am talking about is the service alleys behind the stores facing Sussex. These alleys were for garbage removal and service access. But where reused as a connected series of courtyards which to me, has produced the most interesting street addresses in the city. Not to mention a great place for people to be, hangout and have other people make money, sometimes quite a lot. They don’t have to be really tight fitting spaces but just interesting spaces. Yes, you can design those in but, the minute the focus becomes, insert the magic building or mega site you lose that focus on a something simple and just a great place for people to be. Things like stores people can use, like a real grocery store, heck I’d take a Walmart (a redesigned big box store that doesn’t necessarily look like one). You can at the least, get things people/residents actually need, as opposed to a thousand cool shops that sell almost nothing people need.

  3. Riffing on Fraser’s comment, I wonder if there are any Walmarts that don’t look like a Walmart.

    Regarding the original post, I like variety in the size of public spaces. Consider me joined.

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