Wayne Cuddington / Postmedia
The National Capital Commission has officially cancelled the RendezVous LeBreton deal to bring an NHL arena downtown, but hopes to salvage some of the planning work in a new process to be finalized next month.After a conference call with 15 board members Thursday afternoon, the NCC agreed to firm up its next steps at another telephone meeting March 7.“The Board made clear its desire that the new process incorporate lessons learned from the previous Request for Proposals and that it build upon and update the planning work that has been done by the NCC to date,” said a statement released Thursday evening.“Important to the success of the new approach will be community and public engagement, Algonquin consultation and collaboration with the City of Ottawa as well as private sector partners.” The RendezVous Group had worked on its $4-billion proposal for about four years, spent more than $4 million and submitted a number of applications to city hall for official plan and zoning changes.It is apparent the NCC does not want to see the work go to waste, as it laid the groundwork for transforming a neighbourhood, build about 4,000 housing units and incorporate offices, retail, outdoor concert spaces and a hotel.A last-ditch mediation effort to save RendezVous, led by retired judge Warren Winkler, had a Feb. 28 deadline but the NCC announced Wednesday that a settlement could not be reached.It is a huge disappointment for the NCC, which began an elaborate process in 2014 to finally settle on a vision and private-sector builder for 55 acres of land that have sat largely dormant for 50 years.Outgoing chief executive Mark Kristmanson, after his final board meeting in January, said the NCC had prepared “a viable alternative approach” though he wouldn’t provide specifics.“I think the original proposal has great merit with respect to everything from affordable housing to connectivity to sustainable design to introducing more public space.”In November and December — when the NCC was expecting a finalized agreement — the partnership between team owner Eugene Melnyk and Trinity Development Group chairman John Ruddy erupted in dramatic fashion with the launching of $1.7 billion in damage claims and counterclaims.The NCC signalled on Dec. 19 that the five-year planning process was over. However, project consultant Graham Bird, a key member of the Ruddy team, announced that Winkler had been retained in an 11th-hour effort to patch over differences and find an agreement by Jan. 19, a deadline that was extended to the end of February.Though much of the public attention has focused on Melnyk, Ruddy and Bird, there are at least a couple of dozen smaller players in the RendezVous group.Among the most important is Abilities Centre Ottawa, which was hoping to build a $45-million facility above a Sensplex near the planned arena. Modelled after one in Whitby, Ont., it consists of 125,000 square feet of athletic and therapy space, with an emphasis on those with disabilities. In addition to a six-lane track and three interior courts, there would be special weight and activity rooms with adaptable equipment.Board chairman Emily Glossop said she was disappointed by the collapse of the RendezVous deal.“We are disappointed in what happened, but we’re not ones to give up,” she said Thursday.She said the organization has built “fabulous” relationships with community partners and was particularly grateful to Bird and his company GBA, for their support. In return, however, she felt the whole RendezVous plan had been improved by putting plans through “an accessibility lens.”Though she wouldn’t name alternate locations under review, Glossop said the organization will now turn its attention to finding the right site, the best partners and the shape of a capital fundraising campaign.ALSO IN THE NEWS:CHEO’s new Centre for Genomic Innovation takes aim at rare diseasesFather of murderer sentenced to prison for drug traffickingIf not LeBreton Flats, what other central location could the Ottawa Senators consider for a new arena?