The RendezVous LeBreton proposal is partially seen here in architectural renderings.
Wayne Cuddington / Ottawa Citizen
It seemed like loads of time. In mid-January, the National Capital Commission granted the feuding RendezVous LeBreton partners an extension until Feb. 28 to reach a deal on the 20-year, $4-billion project to redevelop LeBreton Flats.Turns out, there was too much time. It’s rare that a mediation effort — such as the one led here by former Ontario chief justice Warren Winkler — lasts much longer than a day or two. Often it takes the threat of a real deadline to force changes in position. And now, finally, we have what looks to be a firm cutoff date.“The NCC was very clear,” Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said Tuesday. “There’s a deadline for Feb. 28 and there will be no extension.”The main issue, as it has been for some time, is how the project’s extensive risks and potentially large profits should be shared. Shortly before the relationship between Trinity Development founder Ruddy and Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk degenerated late last year into $1.7 billion in suits and countersuits, Melnyk had been willing to forgo his share of the profits in exchange for a rent-free arena for his NHL team. Ruddy has been insisting that Melnyk should pay arena rent on commercial terms. What to do with the proceeds of the sale of the Canadian Tire Centre and surrounding property also figured into the mix.Mediation efforts have been difficult, a reality seemingly confirmed by Melnyk’s appearance Monday on Parliament Hill. What was he doing there? The rumours quickly escalated. One held that he had had a meeting with Rodriguez, the minister responsible for the NCC, to ask for an extension to the mediation efforts. Not true, said a source in the minister’s office.Another line of thought was that Melnyk had approached the minister of finance or his officials to lobby for more favourable tax treatment for new NHL arenas. A Liberal source nixed that one, too. As far as could be determined, Melnyk met with no Liberals.Was he playing tourist, then? Well, unlikely. While he lives in Barbados, he’s visited here frequently enough. This much we know: There’s a lot of interest in this town about whether LeBreton Flats will ever play host to NHL hockey — either because a new $500-million U.S. arena won’t get built or because Melnyk could sell the Senators outright.Among the credible rumours being floated is that Ruddy suggested to Winkler the idea of going ahead without a final resolution on the arena question — but leave a “placeholder” for a future stadium amid the condos, hotel and retail shops. In this scenario, the arena would be built by a new owner or Melnyk under terms to be negotiated later.Even this seems a stretch — the NCC, in this case, would have to accept a rather large risk Melnyk and Ruddy would simply reignite their legal battle down the road.Related If there’s no agreement Thursday between Ruddy and Melnyk that would spell the end of their RendezVous LeBreton partnership. It would also free the NCC to launch a new process for redeveloping the Flats. The NCC warned six weeks ago that it had plans already in place, but would wait to see if Winkler’s mediation proved successful.Rodriguez made clear Tuesday the NCC is still committed to a transformative project on LeBreton Flats. Whether this would mean starting a competitive bidding contest from scratch is an open question. Such a turn would give members of Devcore Canderel DLS — the runners-up in the contest to redevelop LeBreton — a shot at taking part, perhaps in partnership with either Ruddy or Melnyk.But we may yet be getting ahead of ourselves. Perhaps Thursday’s deadline will finally prompt Ruddy and Melnyk to cut a deal.It’s just wise not to count on it.ALSO IN THE NEWS:Woman starts her week at casino, and it pays offOttawa residents file objections to proposed Wellington West Village pot shopCanadian Tire applies to build store at Carlingwood