OTTAWA -- The National Capital Commission is seeking "bold and transformational" ideas for attractions at LeBreton Flats as it launches a new process to redevelop land on the site.

And the director of the LeBreton project says the NCC is open to a possible arena for the Ottawa Senators on the federally-owned land.

“The door is open,” Katie Paris told reporters on Wednesday. “We understand that the Senators owner has been vocal in the media about looking for another location for the arena. If it’s of interest of him or to the Senators, them the door is open.”

“But we also want to make sure that we get going on this project,” she added. “So we are looking for other ideas and we want to make sure that we consider the whole range of ideas before moving forward.”

The NCC has launched a request for expressions of interest for two parcels of the land just west of downtown, which the commission hopes will feature major attractions.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” NCC CEO Tobi Nussbaum said in a news release. “We are looking for visionaries and trailblazers who share our passion and excitement for the possibilities of this incredible place. 

“We want to draw ideas for attractions that are both bold and transformational.”

The first site is a six-acre parcel of land along Albert Street between City Centre Avenue and Preston Street, east of the Bayview LRT station.

The other smaller site is a 1.2-acre parcel along an inlet of the Ottawa River, which the NCC says offers “an outstanding location for a smaller venue.”

“The major attractions are hoped to be a regional, national and international draw for sports, music and entertainment, arts and culture and/or recreational purposes,” the REI says.

The last time major attractions were planned for LeBreton Flats was when the Ottawa Senators-led bid to redevelop the site won preferred status in 2016.

That bid, which would have included an NHL arena, fell apart after a legal dispute between Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and development partner Trinity Developments. Melnyk has since mused about building a new arena in Kanata, near the Canadian Tire Centre. He has also floated Gatineau as an option.

Paris said she's confident the process to develop major attractions will go more smoothly this time around.

“It’s really different this time,” she said. The NCC has created a master concept plan for LeBreton Flats, starting with public consultation, grounding the major attractions in a larger vision, she said.

And she said the context has changed: the new library is under construction at the east end of the Flats, the NCC’s first land sale is in progress, and it has already developed a new pathway system on the land.

“We really do retain the flexibility over time to implement our vision in phases, as it’s done the world over,” she said.

The sites will become important anchors for the surrounding development, which will eventually become home to 7,500 residents and 4,000 workers.

“What does a major attraction look like? Some people think sports arena, some think concert hall, some think exposition space, and some have other ideas,” the REI says. “We are leaving the canvas blank so creative minds can suggest innovative and financially sound concepts that could capture our interest.”

Any proposal for a major events centre would need to identify a tenant, its use, and its financing sources, Paris said.

“The NCC does not want to be the owner of this building,” she said. “Our role is to offer the opportunity, offer the land, offer our spirit of partnership…to make this vision a reality.”

“If you tell us you want to do a certain type of facility, we would want to see your capacity and your experience and your ability to get that vision done.”

Mayor Jim Watson said he still believes it makes the most sense to have an arena at LeBreton Flats.

“I have faith that hopefully the NHL and the owner of the team will see what a great opportunity it was, and could be," he told Newstalk 580 CFRA's Kristy Cameron.

You can read the entire request for expressions of interest here. The NCC is asking proponents to submit their ideas by the end of February 2022. Evaluation of the proposals will take place in March and April.