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:
An arena with very little parking would fit along side Booth Street, a very short walk from Pimisi transit Station:
Pimisi station is being built where you see the short lineup of buses in the pic below:
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:
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:
Another arena above transit is in NYC:
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 …
For Amway arena (Orlando) stories, click …
*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.