PATRICK LANGSTON, OTTAWA CITIZEN – Published on: November 6, 2015
Waterways may be a defining feature of Ottawa, but just try finding a home next to any of them. That gets a bit easier with Saturday’s launch of Kanaal, a mix of waterside condo towns and apartments at Zibi, the ambitious 37-acre redevelopment of former Domtar property on the Ottawa River.
Pronounced ZEEbee and meaning river in Algonquin, the $1.2-billion, über-green redevelopment by Windmill Development Group and Dream Unlimited Corp. blends residential, commercial and retail with extensive public space including parks, plazas and trails. It includes Chaudière and Albert islands on the Ottawa side and a slice of the Gatineau shoreline. The project also opens up to the public, for the first time in decades, the splendid Chaudière Falls.
The first phase of Zibi, called “O,” opened this past spring on the Quebec side. Over half its 66 condos have sold, and a second phase of 75 units will launch next spring. In all, some 1,200 condos will be built at Zibi over the next dozen years or so.
Kanaal, designed by architect Barry Hobin, is located on Chaudière Island near LeBreton Flats. It comprises 26 stacked towns with 35 apartments above them. The south side will front the canal known as Buchanan Channel, the narrow strip of water separating Chaudière and Albert islands.The other side will face a European-style public square that will include restored industrial buildings with retail and commercial space.
“It’s quite a unique building,” says Windmill partner Rodney Wilts. “The main feature is the location: on the south side … you can be sitting out on your terrace and a family of ducks toodles by.”
Kanaal’s towns run 1,406 to just under 1,950 square feet and start at $760,356. About half the towns are being released on Saturday, with no set date for the balance. The apartments range from one bedroom and 524 square feet to 1,301 square feet with two bedrooms and a den. They start at$262,808.
“We’re trying to create a building that represents a real spectrum. It’s not just all million-dollar units,” says Wilts.
It’s also a building designed to maximize its waterfront location by giving as many occupants as possible a view of the canal, according to Hobin. To support that, the apartment section steps back to give the towns rooftop terraces facing the water. Rooftop apartment terraces also overlook the canal.
While the building’s form responds to the water, Hobin says that Kanaal’s exterior fabric draws on the site’s industrial context with a “tactile texture of brick and stone and metal.”
Inside, floor plans include penthouses that sweep from the building’s front to its back, opening the units to natural daylight and air circulation. “It basically allows you to have a bungalow in the air,” says Hobin.
Intriguing designs notwithstanding, Zibi doesn’t tickle everyone. Renowned First Nations architect Douglas Cardinal, who designed the Canadian Museum of History, is among those who launched an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board over the city’s approval of Windmill’s rezoning application for Albert and Chaudière islands.
A number of First Nations leaders say the lands, which are on unceded Algonquin territory, are sacred to their people and should not be developed. Cardinal and other native protesters gathered on nearby Victoria Island earlier this week to voice their opposition to the development.
However, other First Nations leaders support the project as an opportunity for employment and meaningful collaboration with the rest of Canada.
Windmill’s plans include using the Algonquin language, along with French and English, on Zibi street signs and employing First Nations workers on the project.
The OMB held a hearing in August on the issues but had not released its decision at the time of writing. Windmill says that sales at Kanaal are conditional upon successful resolution of the OMB hearing, and that the company is confident of a favourable ruling.
“We’ve been talking to Doug Cardinal a lot. We’re always trying to extend an olive branch,” says Wilts. “I don’t have any illusions that he‘s going to stop opposing the project.”
Those who like the project are enamoured with not just its esthetics but its sustainability. The buildings are being constructed to LEED platinum standards, the highest level under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, an industry-recognized rating system for green buildings. Heating, for example, will use a warm water loop system to capture heat being generated but not used in the area and direct it to buildings. Similar technology will cool units.
Zibi will also promote alternatives to cars and return the shoreline to a natural state. The project has been endorsed by One Planet Community, a growing global network of leading-edge sustainable neighbourhoods.
Green features at Kanaal include the use of reclaimed industrial doors in the lobby. The units boast formaldehyde-free materials in kitchens and elsewhere, and wood floors from responsibly managed forests.
Also in Kanaal’s package: five stainless-steel appliances, granite or quartz counters, and a gym plus amenity centre with a pool and lounge.
Wilts says that Kanaal is the Dutch spelling of canal. The name was chosen after Windmill scoured Europe for pace-setting green and waterfront sites and noted that the Dutch were in the vanguard of sustainable leadership.
Zibi’s deep green character helped lure buyer Glenn Maloney. Currently living in Kanata, he and his wife bought a 650-square-foot unit at O in the spring as an investment and hope to land a waterside unit for themselves when Kanaal launches Saturday.
“It was affordable, and the buildings are attractive in that they are environmentally sound,” he says. “I’ve been anticipating this project for years. It’s close to LeBreton Flats, the river, to paths. It’s so central, I can’t imagine a better place to enjoy (life).”
As it’s doing at O, Windmill plans to have the condos, public square and restored heritage and other structures ready for use at the same time. Wilts won’t name the commercial and retail tenants already on board, but he does say that when the site opens, “Rest assured, it’s a place where you can get a coffee and a beer.”
More condos are planned for Chaudière Island, but no release date has been set.
Windmill expects construction at Kanaal to start this coming spring and occupancy to begin in early 2018.
What: A mix of 26 stacked condo towns from 1,406 to 1,946 square feet and 35 condo apartments from 524 to 1,301 square feet. Part of Zibi, a 1,200-condo redevelopment project on the former Domtar lands.
Builder: Windmill Development Group and Dream Unlimited Corp.
Prices: Towns start at $760,356; apartments at $262,808. Condo fees are 33 cents a square foot and parking is $35,000.
Sales centre: 3 rue Eddy, Gatineau.
Hours: Monday to Thursday, noon to 6 p.m.; weekends, noon to 5 p.m. Closed Friday.
Information: 613-224-0134; zibi.ca