By: ELIZABETH PAYNE, OTTAWA CITIZEN – Published on: February 25, 2015
Zibi, an Algonquin word meaning river, will be the name of the community located on the former Domtar lands on the Ottawa River — a site developers are promising will be “one of the most, if not the most, sustainable communities on the planet.”
The name was unveiled Tuesday during an on-site launch of the first phase of the development, one of the largest urban renewal projects in Canada.
Work on the $1.2-billion residential, retail and commercial community on the former industrial site is expected to begin within months and initially include commercial and retail space as well as two six-storey condo buildings on the Gatineau side of the Ottawa River.
Despite the use of the aboriginal name, Algonquin representatives invited to Tuesday’s event were notably absent, underscoring some of the opposition the project faces.
Architect Douglas Cardinal has filed an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board over the development on the islands, which he says are sacred to Algonquin people. Cardinal says the islands should remain a gathering place for First Nations and should be the site of a centre comparable to embassies across the city.
And now, Raymond Moriyama, the architect who designed the Canadian War Museum, just across from the development, has joined Cardinal, who designed the Canadian Museum of History, in opposing the project.
In a talk as part of Ottawa’s Winter Design Festival earlier this month, Moriyama called the project “heart-sinking and idiotic,” according to Spacing Magazine.
Cardinal said Moriyama has offered to stand with him in his opposition to the project and support of the vision of Algonquin Chief William Commanda to build a national indigenous centre there.
Jonathan Westeinde, a partner with Windmill Developments, which is building the mixed-use urban renewal project along with Toronto’s Dream Unlimited, said the developers are “working very hard to keep a healthy dialogue and find ways that we can celebrate the history of the three nations here together.”
The name, Westeinde said, was chosen because, “The river is a very defining feature of this property (and) the Algonquin history is a very defining element of this property so we thought it gave symbolic meaning.”
Patrick Henry of Canoe Canada, who suggested the name, was offered a week at a resort owned by the Westeindes as a prize, but asked that the company instead support a canoe trip he is making this summer with youths from the Kitigan Zibi reserve that’s slated to end at Victoria Island on Canada Day.
More details about the project were also revealed Tuesday.
Westeinde said potential commercial clients include an Australian urban indoor farming company called Rebel Farms, which could become the supplier of greens for restaurants throughout the 37-acre sustainable community that includes a parcel on the Quebec side as well as Albert and Chaudière Islands in the Ottawa River.
Other possible commercial tenants include a brew pub and a community kitchen, which would offer catering and cooking lessons. Windmill plans to relocate its offices to space in one of the repurposed industrial buildings.
Tenants could begin moving into commercial space at the site as early as this fall. The residential buildings, located along the river on the Gatineau side, are expected to be ready by 2017.
Westeinde said developers have given a great deal of thought to making the community sustainable with a zero-carbon plan, a district energy strategy to achieve that plan and “some novel transportation strategies.”
One idea the developers have looked at is a personal pod transportation system that would operate on an elevated monorail and allow people to “zip around” the site. Similar systems operate in Sweden and at Google’s campus in the United States, he said.
Ottawa-based Windmill, which has a growing reputation for green and sustainable development, has partnered with Dream, the Toronto company behind that city’s acclaimed Distillery District.
Dream’s senior vice-president, Jason Lester, said the project aligns with his company’s purpose to “build better communities.”
“Not only will this be a better community, but one of the world’s best, a place that will become one of the world’s most iconic landmarks. It will become a cultural meeting place for people from the region as well as for visitors from around Canada and beyond.”
To be part of a project that will see the historic Chaudière Falls reopened to the public after more than a century, he said, “is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
National Capital Commission CEO Mark Kristmanson said the NCC is still negotiating with Windmill about use of federal land near the site, but is making “significant progress.” The NCC, he said, wants to see an interpretation program that tells the story of First Nations and industry.
“Long has this been a place of natural wonder. This launch event is an important step toward restoring that wonder,” Kristmanson said.
Cardinal said he has met with Windmill officials. “I think they wanted to hear my perspective on it, so I advised them that those were very sacred islands to the First Nations right across Canada and those islands were the gathering place and the capital of all the Anishinaabe people for thousands of years and it is unceded Algonquin territory. Those islands should be under the direction and stewardship of the First Nations.”