What to Expect When Canada Turns 150 in 2017

By Bruce Firestone | Uncategorized

Apr 06

(A version of this post first appeared in Ottawa Business Journal, https://www.obj.ca/Opinion/Bruce-Firestone-5444)

In 1,350 days or so it will be time for Canada’s sesquicentennial celebration—the nation turns 150 in 2017. It’s an important year not only because it is this country’s 150th birthday but also because it’s the 125th anniversary of the first time Lord Stanley’s Cup was awarded, the 100th anniversary of the National Hockey League’s founding, the 50th anniversary of the NHL’s first expansion (in 1967) and the 25th anniversary of the founding of the modern day Ottawa Senators. There are a lot of Ottawa-connections in these dates not least of which this city is a G8 capital which means it should spearhead preparations for Canada 150. So what kind of party is planned for 2017?

Not content to wait for federal or provincial leadership, Mayor Jim Watson formed a 2017 Task Force led by his honour and councillors Katherine Hobbs and Rainer Bloess. So far details from the task force are limited to a video on their site (ottawa2017.ca) which features now-departed Sens Captain Daniel Alfredsson and a media release announcing that they have come up with a logo. In addition, the site says, “Ottawa and Gatineau are open for business to celebrate Canada’s big year in 2017.” Not much to go on so far.

Getting ready for a major anniversary, especially if there are any plans to add legacy projects, takes years—in September of this year, Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Summer Olympics by the IOC. So as far as Canada 150 is concerned, even though there are three years left (after this one) to get ready, the anniversary might as well start tomorrow. What kind of a legacy can citizens of Ottawa expect?

To get some idea, ask another question: what kind of legacy did Expo 67 leave behind or, more recently, the 2010 Vancouver Olympics? Expo 67 like the Vancity Olympics left an indelible mark on Canada and changed not only the way Canadians see themselves but also Canada’s international brand.

Despite that, Canada’s performance in terms of attracting its share of international tourists is dismal. In 2002, Canada ranked 7th in the world in terms of international tourist arrivals falling to 15th just eight years later. Canada attracted 20.1 million visits in 2002 but only 15.8 million in 2009 recovering somewhat in 2012 when 16.3 million international visitors arrived in this nation. By comparison, Mexico attracted 23.4 million that same year while the US had 67 million overseas visitors. Not only are numbers trending down, Canada’s proportionate share of world tourism is dropping even faster. So while brand matters in terms of attracting attention, tourists and their money, Canada is clearly not keeping up. Canada 150 is an opportunity to do better.

Talking with former task force member and current president of the Ottawa Senators Cyril Leeder, he says, “I would have liked to see plans for Canada 2017 move a little quicker. It looks to me like the task force is mainly focused on encouraging individuals and businesses in Ottawa to step up and plan special activities and events for 2017.” There was little discussion and even less support, Mr Leeder said, for any new facilities to be purpose-built to celebrate Canada 150. “The first leg of Ottawa’s LRT is not scheduled to open until 2018 so it won’t be a factor in 2017. Perhaps there will be an announcement during Canada 150 that Ottawa’s LRT will be expanded, hopefully one day connecting to the Canadian Tire Centre.”

Expo 67 left behind five main legacies—1. the site itself (Ile-Saint-Helene was expanded using 25 million tons of debris excavated during the construction of Montreal’s metro system and a whole new island (Ile-Notre-Dame) was created); 2. La Ronde (now owned and operated by Six Flags) became Canada’s 2nd largest amusement park, 3. Moshe Safdie-designed Habitat 67 became an ultra-cool place to live and a co-op as well; 4. the French and Quebec pavilions now house the Casino de Montreal (largest in Canada); and 5. the US pavilion, a Buckminster Fuller-designed bucky-ball (an enormous spherical geodesic dome also called a Buckminsterfullerene), is home to Montreal’s Biosphere.

Vancouver was also profoundly changed by its experience with the winter Olympics—there was the Pacific Gateway Program, a $22 billion expansion of highways, bridges and rail connections primarily benefiting Vancouver’s port, amazing venues like the Vancity curling centre, Richmond’s speed skating oval and UBC’s Thunderbird Arena, the SkyTrain which now connects downtown Vancouver to its airport plus it’s a lot safer today to drive the Sea-to-Sky highway on your way to Whistler than it was before the games.

What can Ottawa expect in terms of legacy projects from 2017? Looks like not much at the present time if Mr Leeder’s experience with the Task Force is any guide.

Mr Leeder says he expects the Senators will try to chip in to help celebrate the year 2017, “We would like to host an outdoor NHL game at a renovated Lansdowne Park. Good dates might be Dec 19th (100th anniversary of the NHL’s first game) or maybe hockey day in Canada usually held in February. We’d also like to see more space build around the Canadian Tire Centre (CTC)—possibly a few hotels (as many as 3 or 4) plus some new bars, shops and restaurants. The Tangers Mall is bringing another 350,000 square feet of retail space to the area so you know there is demand for it.”

With the mention of a hotel, the question of a second casino location for Ottawa comes up. “It’s back to the drawing board as far as a casino is concerned,” Cyril Leeder says. “While the City of Ottawa would like to designate Rideau Carleton Raceway and Slots as the only site for this use and OLG has said there will only be one such location in Ottawa, we feel that it’s a natural to add a casino to what is already a key entertainment destination for this area—CTC attracts 1.2 million paid attendees per year already.”

When asked what happened to the proposal put forward by the author in 2010 for a national boardwalk* to link institutions that dot the shoreline of the Ottawa and Gatineau rivers (the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Casino du Lac-Leamy, the parliamentary precinct, the National Gallery of Canada and the Royal Canadian Mint as well as other attractions such as the Byward Market, Rideau Falls, Rideau Canal and the University of Ottawa), Mr Leeder replied, “Although I personally supported the idea of building the longest boardwalk in the world to go along with the longest skateway, that suggestion didn’t get much traction with the Task Force who felt that their focus should primarily be to help mobilize events in Ottawa instead.”

(* See Appendix to this article.)

The current record holder for longest boardwalk opened June 26, 1870 in Atlantic City, New Jersey and currently runs 4 ½ miles. If Ottawa were to build a national boardwalk for 2017, the installation would be the new record holder at 10.4 kilometres (about 6.5 miles) long.

“When my wife and I were in Tuscany this summer,” Mr Leeder added, “we visited Lucca, a gem of a city near Pisa. What attracts tourists there is not only its great history but the opportunity to hike or bike 3-miles on top of the wide walls of the old city so I can see how a long boardwalk in Ottawa with exposure to three great rivers, an historic canal plus fabulous museums and neighborhoods could have a lasting impact on this city especially if it had places to stop—maybe pavilions built by the provinces, artist studios and tea or coffee shops.”

If you don’t think something like a boardwalk can transform not only a cityscape but also its economy, look at what happened when a one mile section of an abandoned elevated train track (the West Side Line owned by New York Central Railroad) was re-purposed as a linear park along the lower west side of Manhattan.


In 2012, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, more than 4 million people used the park and over $2 billion was spent on development in adjacent neighborhoods.


It even has its own “Friends of High Line Park” website and extensive programming including–star gazing, guided tours, shopping, gardening, dance parties, lawn time (forest bathing) for little ones, arty hours, teen nights…


A third phase of High Line Park is under development, which will increase its overall length by 50% to 1.5 miles. Imagine for a moment you are a real estate developer. What kind of a premium could you charge for units (say, residential condos or co-ops) that are close to High Line Park, or better yet, connect directly to it via, say, a pedestrian overpass? Probably quite substantial.

When asked about other possible initiatives for Ottawa like getting a MLS soccer team or promoting a major outdoor concert on the scale of say Woodstock, Mr Leeder said the former is no longer on the horizon and he hasn’t heard anything about the latter although he doesn’t rule out the possibility that either the feds or the province of Ontario or possibly the Mayor’s task force may yet come up with something. But for now Mr Leeder concludes, “It’ll be up to entrepreneurs to get Ottawa’s economy and 2017 celebrations off the ground.”

Dr Bruce M Firestone, founder, Ottawa Senators; broker, Century 21 Explorer Realty


2017 Celebration—National Boardwalk

A Proposal

Canada will celebrate its 150th Anniversary in 2017. As part of the celebration of that historic event, Canada could construct a National Boardwalk to link together the marvelous institutions that dot the shoreline of the Ottawa River such as the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Parliamentary Precinct, National Gallery of Canada, the Royal Canadian Mint along with other attractions such as the Byward Market, Rideau Falls, Rideau Canal, University of Ottawa and much more.

Here is a look at what, if constructed, would become the largest boardwalk in the world:


(The National Boardwalk is shown in brown above.)

The current world record holder for the longest boardwalk opened on June 26, 1870 in Atlantic City, New Jersey and currently runs 4 ½ miles in length. The new, longest Boardwalk in the world would link the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau, the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec and open in 2017, the 150th Anniversary of Canada’s founding.

Points Connected:

Ottawa River
CDN War Museum
Lebreton Flats
Chaudierre Island
Victoria Island
Supreme Court of Canada
Library and Archives Canada
Garden of the Provinces and Territories
Ottawa River Bicycle Path
CDN Museum of Civilization
Parliament Hill
Fairmont Chateau Laurier
Ottawa Rowing Club
The Royal CDN Mint
Rideau Falls
Rockcliffe Pavilion
Rideau Canal
University of Ottawa
Major’s Hill Park
Nepean Point
Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica
Aga Khan Foundation
National Gallery of Canada
Royal CDN Mint
Byward Market
National Arts Centre
Green Island
Governor General’s Residence/Rideau Hall
Alexandria Bridge
Casino du Lac Leamy
Hilton Hotel
Plage du Lac Leamy
Gatineau River

Potential Length:

10 km +/-

Approximate Cost:

$2 million per mile (2007 est. for Milford, CT.)

~ $1.65 million per km (2010 est.)

~ $16.5 million + soft costs (30%) for a total of $21.45 million for the boardwalk (est.)

Other Opportunities:

The National Boardwalk would be built at public cost but proposals from other parties to develop sites along the National Boardwalk might be expected.

Possibilities exist to develop 3-season Pavilions. Pavilions could be focused on (for example)—CDN arts, dance, concerts, film, festivals, history, wine and foods, green and other tech, education, Provinces, Territories, food and beverage, entertainment, etc.

Possible Season:

May Day to Thanksgiving Weekend

Spring—Summer—Fall (Closed in Winter)

Potential Transit:

In addition to pedestrian traffic, OC Transpo could be solicited to operate a small electric trolley system along or next to the Boardwalk.

Lasting Legacy:

A National Boardwalk celebrating Canada and its people would be an impressive and lasting legacy meandering along three of the most scenic rivers in North America and connecting points of historic and national importance. The National Boardwalk could last (as in the case of Atlantic City and subject to regular maintenance) 150 years—until the 300th Anniversary of this nation.


Dr. Bruce M. Firestone, B. Eng. (Civil), M. Eng.-Sci., PhD.
Founder, Ottawa Senators
Real Estate Broker, Century 21 Explorer Realty Inc
Email: bruce.firestone @ century21.ca
Internet: www.brucemfirestone.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ProfBruce

Myrtle Beach proposal:


Toronto’s Rail Deck Park:


How Turning an Abandoned Rail-line into a Linear Park Created Billions in Development

If you don’t think something like a boardwalk can transform not only a cityscape but also its economy, look at what happened when a one mile section of an abandoned elevated train track (the West Side Line owned by New York Central Railroad) was re-purposed as a linear park along the lower west side of Manhattan.

In 2012, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, more than 4 million people used the park and over $2 billion was spent on development in adjacent neighborhoods.

Now Anglo-Iraqi starchitect Zaha Hadid has created a 39-unit apartment building using her trademark curved glass wall style at 520 W 28th street in Chelsea. Outdoor space (balconies) feature prominently as well. Ms Hadid loves the light in New York, which she calls “rare, both cold and sharp.”

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, units range from 1,700 square feet to more than 6,000 square feet. Prices go from $4.95 million to as much as $50 million, which means the smallest and lest expensive unit is still $2,912 per square foot.

Billions in value were unlocked when New York Central Railroad re-purposed its rail-line, and the city of New York  rezoned the area around the Hudson Yards and the High Line about a decade ago. Ms Hadid tells Bloomberg, “The whole liberation of the High Line has made projects possible.”

James Corner is founder of James Corner Field Operations, the design firm responsible for New York’s High Line. He believes that, “good design in public spaces makes a city more appealing, draws both new residents and the companies that want to employ them, and enhances economic value of everything around it–a theory that’s been more than borne out in practice.” (Bloomberg Businssweek, April 11-24, 2016).

Here’s a screenshot from their website, which captures, at least to my mind, one of the key elements of making any public space work. It also makes it safer. How? By adding live elements–tea shop, food truck, sports area, (clean) w/c, artist studio, micro museum, wine bar, bandstand, speaker platform, newsstand, bicycle/skateboard/hoverboard rental, bookstore… any space that combines nature, leisure activities, active uses and jobs will be successful.

So if you want to create new value in your town or city, you could do worse than add a boardwalk, which is exactly what I proposed for Ottawa as Canada turns 150 in 2017. Read more at https://profbruce.tumblr.com/post/130126142074/how-turning-an-abandoned-rail-line-into-a-linear.

Boardwalk Animates Place: 


Vancouver’s Experience:

I asked Susan M Boyce after reading her article (https://www.rew.ca/news/what-s-happening-in-vancouver-s-entertainment-district-crosstown-1.2014403): how
important do you think adding a boardwalk could be to downtown Ottawa developments RendezVous LeBreton and Zibi?

Here’s what she said:

Hi Bruce,

I’m a huge fan of boardwalks. I believe they add a whole
new, highly desirable dimension to any project. They engage people, they
encourage social interaction between all generations, and they open up the
potential for some great business opportunities like restaurants and boutique

This specific location already has the benefit of being on Vancouver’s
well-known and much loved SeaWall, so while I admit there’s a built-in
advantage, I think it will still increase its overall appeal significantly –
especially among tourists who might then be inspired to explore more “local,
insider" attractions. I’ve also observed that even in smaller developments
incorporating a less comprehensive boardwalk (sometimes just a pier, walkway,
and seating), this feature is one of the highlights residents and visitors

I’d be among the first to say “Yes!” to your idea for your
new downtown rink. Feel free to give me a call if I can expand on this. And
please do let me know what you decide – I’m always curious what other cities
are doing.

M Boyce

Writer/Journalist & Personal Historian


The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference
between lightning and a
lightning bug. 

Mark Twain

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About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.