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Baker District Guelph

As seen in The Ottawa Business Journal

Guelph officials have selected an Ottawa-based real estate developer to turn a parking lot and several existing buildings in the southern Ontario city into a mixed-use development featuring a new central library.

Under the agreement, which was endorsed by Guelph councillors earlier this month, Windmill will own and develop a pair of residential buildings – containing a total of 275 units – and commercial components of the project while working with the city to develop the library, parking facilities and public spaces in an area known as the “Baker District.”

Windmill beat out three other shortlisted teams from HOK, Turner Fleischer Architects and Triovest Realty Advisors.

Locally, Windmill is known for several condo developments, including the Currents above the Great Canadian Theatre Co. and The Eddy, both on Wellington Street West. The firm also developed the Christ Church Cathedral residential and office project on the west end of Sparks Street and initiated the Zibi redevelopment on the former Domtar lands overlooking the Ottawa River. That project is now spearheaded by Theia Partners and Toronto-based Dream Unlimited.

Windmill’s team includes Diamond Schmitt Architects and DTAH. Windmill’s sister strategic consulting company, Urban Equation, will also design a sustainability framework based on the One Planet Living principles.

Posted in News | Comments Off on Ottawa-based Windmill wins competition to lead Guelph property redevelopment

What a year! With the holidays right around the corner, we wanted to take this opportunity to wish you all the best in the coming year and take a look back on some of our major 2016 milestones.

Since we launched Zibi in 2014, we have been hard at work creating this unique community. Winner of national and international awards for its master plan, Zibi has been called “an excellent example for the planning profession of neighbourhood planning” by the Canadian Institute of Planners and “a vibrant, world-class sustainable community where the public will be able to live, play, and work alongside a vibrant waterfront” by the American Planning Association.

The Cirque is coming to town
Starting August 2017, Zibi is ecstatic to play host to Cirque du Soleil, one of the most culturally revered institutions, and a homegrown one at that. Last December 7th we were honoured to welcome Cirque du Soleil President and CEO Daniel Lamarre as he announced—alongside our partners Dream Unlimited Corp., the City of Gatineau, and the Place des festivals—that their new touring show VOLTA will touching down for 31 performances at Zibi in 2017. Yet another thrilling event to add to the already stacked events calendar surrounding the celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary.

Play at Zibi
Zibi is already positioning itself as a vital economic and community hub, having hosted a number of key Ottawa-Gatineau events throughout the year. From cultural beacons such as Bluesfest and Latin Sparks Island Edition, to family-friendly events such as Pop-Up Cinema and Zibi’s own Taste of Gatineau Food Fair and the Wellbeing Day, Zibi is poised to become even busier in the year to come. Be sure to register to be in the know!

Live at Zibi
With only a few units left at O in Gatineau and Kanaal in Ontario, including a few enviable new floor plans at Kanaal, there isn’t much time left to join the select tastemakers who’ve already decided to make Zibi their home. And with other exciting developments on the way, you’ll want to get in now.

We are very proud to announce that Christopher Simmonds Architect was awarded first place in the “Highrise building, 50 units or more” category for the design of The Eddy during GOHBA’s 33rd annual Housing Design Awards. The talented firm took home a total of 7 awards at this years’ gala and we are proud to be a longstanding partner.

Buy now and get FREE parking
We’re down to our last 2 units! Buy before December 31st, 2016 and get FREE PARKING in The Eddy’s state of the art automated puzzle parking garage – basically your own valet service! Contact or call 613-422-5834 for tours and information.

All current purchasers have taken occupancy at Cathedral Hill, solidifying its place as Ottawa’s premiere luxury residence. And one of Cathedral Hill’s most popular—and previously sold-out—units is now back on the market. Located on the 16th floor, “The Champlain” features 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a private balcony with stunning views. Act fast!

The newly relaunched Arch Lofts, located in the vibrant family-friendly neighbourhood at Perth and Wallace Street in Toronto, presents a rare opportunity to live in a historic setting at just the right scale. Discover 39 individual lofts nestled in the converted church or in the newly-built vestry. With prices starting in the mid $300s and occupancy slated for 2017, you’ll want to find out more at or contact Paul Johnson at 416-800-8796 or at

Whitewater Village, located 1 hour west of Ottawa, offers the traditional benefits of cottage ownership at reduced cost, all while avoiding the hassle of maintenance and security responsibilities. Our eco-luxury cottages provide a carefree investment, ensuring you are able to enjoy your leisure time arrival to departure. Call 1-866-298-3333, or email Jason at today to learn more about Whitewater Village cottages and book a site tour.

Through staff and sponsorships, Windmill has raised over $17,000 toward the following fundraisers and charitable social initiatives: Breast Cancer Society of Canada; Algonquin College Canadian Cancer Society; Sisters of Charity of Ottawa; EV Day; Alison Azer; Refugee Sponsorship Support Program; Environmental Defense – Smart Growth; Children’s Aid Foundation of Ottawa; Pediatrie social Gatineau; Movember charity for men’s health; Ottawa Riverkeeper; Staff clothing drives for Refugee programs.

And through composting and recycling at our offices and on-site events we have managed to divert several tons of waste away from landfills. For the second year in a row our staff celebrated Earth Day by handing out 2500 trees on the streets of Ottawa and Gatineau. Just a few of our sustainable initiatives that highlight out commitment to the environment.

We have a great team here at Windmill, and with additional projects underway, we can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store.

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Brand new show VOLTA to be presented at Zibi starting August 2017

Gatineau, December 7, 2016 – Windmill Development Group and Dream Unlimited Corp., in partnership with La Ville de Gatineau and Place des Festivals are pleased to announce they have signed an agreement to host the Cirque du Soleil at Zibi starting in August 2017.

The Cirque du Soleil will bring its brand new touring show to the Ottawa-Gatineau region, VOLTA, which will take place this summer coinciding with Gatineau 2017 ‘s exciting activities to commemorate Canada’s 150th anniversary.

“We are proud to welcome this international cultural icon to Zibi, and the thousands of visitors and tourists who will come to experience VOLTA,” said Jeff Westeinde, Executive Chairman of the Windmill Development Group. “It has been a shared vision for us and la Ville de Gatineau to see Zibi play a central role in the revitalization of downtown Gatineau and its riverfront.”

“We are extremely excited about this announcement and believe that having a relationship with such an important cultural icon such as Cirque du Soleil is vital in redefining the Ottawa-Gatineau region as a culturally thriving metropolis,” said Daniel Marinovic, Senior Vice President, Dream Unlimited Corp.

After welcoming over 60 landmark socio-cultural events such as MEGAPHONO, Latin Sparks Island Edition, and the RBC Bluesfest, Zibi is proud to reinforce its position as an important cultural hub.

From August 3rd to 27th 2017, Ottawa-Gatineau residents and tourists alike will have the chance to attend one of the 31 performances of VOLTA, each with a capacity of nearly 2500 people. 2017 is sure to be a banner year for Ottawa-Gatineau tourism, and VOLTA opens the possibility of more Cirque du Soleil shows to come over the next six years.

Gatineau’s municipal council yesterday approved a $300,000 investment to help transform the site into the Place des Festivals’ new temporary home, and allow it to welcome the Cirque du Soleil in August 2017. Windmill Development Group and Dream Unlimited Corp.  will be investing an additional $400,000 on the Zibi site to complete the necessary work.

“I am proud to partner with Dream Unlimited Corp. and Windmill Development Group on this announcement today,” said Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin. “We have always viewed Zibi as a cultural and economic partner for our revitalized downtown, today’s announcement cements this role.”

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Zibi receives prestigious international award for planning and design

Becomes one of the most decorated community plans in the world


Ottawa, September 16, 2016Zibi, a redevelopment project in the heart of the national capital with aspirations of becoming the world’s most sustainable community, has received the International Society of City and Regional Planners’ (ISOCARP) award of excellence for planning and design.

The award – the highest bestowed by the organization – was presented yesterday to Zibi developers Windmill Developments and Dream Unlimited Corp. (TSX:DRM), and their partner FOTENN Planning + Design, at ISOCARP’s International Congress in Durban, South Africa.

The ISOCARP Award For Excellence rewards plans with a strong focus on sustainability, innovation, regeneration and resilience. An international jury of ISOCARP members evaluated the submissions, and chose Zibi as the best plan.

The plans for Zibi have also recently received awards from the Canadian Institute of Planners and the American Planning Association, making it one of the most decorated community plans on the planet.

“With this award, our peers from around the world have again confirmed that our plans for Zibi are truly world-class,” said Rodney Wilts, partner at Windmill Developments. “This One Planet urban community, along with LRT and Lebreton Flats, will help propel Ottawa and Gatineau to the next level on the world stage.”

Over the next 15 years, Zibi will transform the long-vacant industrial lands straddling Ottawa and Gatineau into a complete waterfront community that blends low- and high-rise residential buildings, restaurants, pubs, merchants and office spaces, unique plazas and outdoor squares, recreational facilities, a hotel, and much more.

“We are very honoured to have received this award,” said Jason Lester, Senior Vice President of Urban Development at Dream. “ Our team is passionate about realizing the vision of a unique and unparalleled community at Zibi.”


About Windmill Development Group

Windmill is a visionary company dedicated to transforming conventional development practices by ensuring that exemplary ecological, social and financial returns are achieved in all their projects. Every Windmill development is conceived, designed and constructed to protect and enhance the local community and our ecosystem. Windmill is the only developer in North America to have achieved LEED Platinum on all its mixed-use projects. Completed projects include The Currents, a performing arts centre and modern condominium tower in Ottawa’s Wellington West neighbourhood, and Dockside Green, a model sustainable community in Victoria that was named one of 16 Clinton Climate Initiative Climate Positive developments.


About Dream Unlimited Corp.

Dream (TSX:DRM) is one of Canada’s leading real estate companies with approximately $15 billion of assets under management in North America and Europe. The scope of the business includes residential land development, housing and condominium development, asset management for three TSX-listed real estate investment trusts and one TSX-listed diversified, hard asset alternatives trust, investments in and management of Canadian renewable energy infrastructure and commercial property ownership. Dream has an established track record for being innovative and for its ability to source, structure and execute on compelling investment opportunities.



Fotenn is an award-winning planning and urban design firm with offices in, Ottawa, Kingston and Toronto. Established in 1992, Fotenn now has more than 35 planning, landscape architecture, architecture and urban design staff engaged in projects across the country.

We maintain a balance of public and private work ranging from individuals and large private sector firms to all three levels of government. Fotenn is committed to providing a responsive and personal approach and honest and fair treatment to our clients as well as the community at large.

While our projects are all diverse in nature, they share one thing in common: a need for practical, high-quality and attractive results. With our wealth of experience in the field, knowledge of current trends and innovative vision, we have added and continue to add immense value to all the spaces we have created across Canada. As we apply our expertise in site planning, land usage, policy development, urban design and landscape architecture, we continue to guarantee high-quality, market-based results appropriate to their environmental settings.



ISOCARP is the international Society of City and Regional Planners. Founded in 1965, and based in The Hague, we are a global association of experienced professionals, brining together recognized and highly qualified planners from more than 80 countries worldwide.

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Ottawa, May 26, 2016 – Windmill Development Group and Dream Unlimited Corp. (TSX:DRM) welcome the Ontario Divisional Court’s ruling to uphold the Ontario Municipal’s Board’s decision to allow the rezoning of the Chaudière and Albert Islands and make way for the development of the highly anticipated Zibi community.

“We are looking forward to delivering on our vision to create the world’s tenth One Planet Community in the heart of the Nation’s capital,” said Rodney Wilts, Partner, Windmill Development. “We’ve received overwhelmingly positive feedback on our plans for this new community. Not only will Zibi become a focal point of the city’s eco-district, but with nearly a quarter of the site designated as parks and public spaces, Zibi will restore access to the islands’ waterfronts and the Chaudière Falls for the first time in almost 200 years.”

“With this ruling, we can proceed confidently with our plans to transform a large part of downtown Ottawa’s under-utilized lands into the world’s most sustainable community,” said Jason Lester, Senior Vice President of Urban Development at Dream.

Demolition on the Quebec side of the site has already begun to prepare the site for construction. Windmill signed an agreement to purchase the lands from Domtar in December 2013. The private transaction marked the beginning of the transformation of the lands into a mixed-use waterfront community and sustainability showpiece.

“It’s very unusual for a private developer in this part of Canada, which is all unceded Algonquin territory, to voluntarily consult and engage with the Algonquin-Anishinabe community,” said Josée Bourgeois, member of the Memengweshii Council, an Algonquin advisory body guiding the project on issues of Algonquin-Anishinabe interests. “It’s been refreshing to work collaboratively with the developers to ensure Zibi would not only provide economic opportunities for our people, but reflect our culture in a tangible way. I can’t recall another instance where this has been possible.”

The developers are committed to developing Zibi in friendship with the Algonquin Anishinabe.

To view the Court of Appeals’ full decision click here.

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By Doug Fischer, Canadian Geographic – Published on: April 6, 2016Across Canada, there are old buildings finding new life through modern transformations. But such metamorphoses are complicated. Indeed, for the past three decades, Stratford, Ont. has struggled to decide on what to do with the giant, neglected railway repair shop that sits on the edge of downtown (read my story about it in the April issue of Canadian Geographic, and see photos here).Maybe Stratford’s more passionate residents would benefit from a chat with Jeff Westeinde. He’s the force behind Zibi, an ambitious plan to develop 15 hectares of historic land on two islands and along the shorelines of the Ottawa River on the Ontario-Quebec border between Ottawa and Gatineau.

Almost from its inception as an idea in 2013, Zibi (the Algonquin word for river) has overcome long odds. Conceived to be one of the most sustainable developments in the world, Zibi came together in less than two years — an achievement for any project, but remarkable for one that required the harnessing of views from two municipalities, two provinces, the federal National Capital Commission and numerous Algonquin communities for whom the site represents sacred land going back nearly 1,000 years.

“It was unanimous among our peers in the development industry that we were out of our minds, that there was no possible way this would ever see the light of day,” Westeinde, the executive chairman and co-founder of Windmill Developments Group, told me. “Yet, here we are.”

Site preparation is already well underway, and work will move into high gear this spring. The project, scheduled to be finished over the next 10 to 15 years, calls for the retrofitting and repurposing of historic lumber industry-era buildings in both Ottawa and Gatineau, the construction of new residences and retail and commercial outlets, all to be connected by a network of trails, bike paths and public transit routes. And all within view of Parliament Hill.

One-quarter of the site will be greenspace and parkland, much of it along the river, including by the Chaudiere Falls. The falls, Ottawa’s biggest tourist attraction in the late 1800s and a sacred First Nations site for close to 1,000 years, were dammed in 1908 to produce hydro-electricity and blocked from public sight. The Zibi project will restore them to view, and become the centrepiece of the $1.2-billion development.

In an odd way, says Westeinde, getting the public to embrace a project virtually no one thought was possible was actually the catalyst that pushed the project forward.

“We thought our job, quite simply, was to take the views of everybody else and turn them into a viable plan that would work for everyone,” Westeinde says. “That always starts with the community and works its way up.”

He says Windmill knew in general what it wanted — to be one of 10 One Planet communities in the world (a designation that recognizes both environmental and cultural sustainability, in this case Windmill’s engagement with the aboriginal community). Beyond that, Windmill knew only that it needed the project to make sense financially.

So it called a public meeting to find out what citizens wanted. More than 900 people showed up at that first meeting, many of them disappointed there were no fancy diagrams or scaled models to look over. In fact, there was nothing.

“If we heard criticism that night it was, ‘Why isn’t there anything for us to see? We expected to see plans.’ We told them that we wanted their thinking about what should be in our plans,” Westeinde says.

The meeting led to a consensus on how to measure success through two broad objectives: to build a project that was world class, and to regularly publish “report cards” grading the level of contribution of all the project’s participants: municipalities, provinces, regulatory agencies, planning bodies, the developer.

According to Westeinde, the work done at that first meeting, besides signalling the company’s willingness to listen to the community, “gave us a bit of a moral high ground to work through some of the tough issues.”

Within two years, most of those obstacles had been swept aside and the project had secured its many approvals and financing. There are still issues to be resolved — the Algonquin communities are themselves divided about whether the development is appropriate for a site of such cultural importance — but barring some unforeseen disaster, and given Windmill’s solid track record, Zibi is likely to be one of the capital’s must-see destinations within a few years.

The lessons learned through Zibi can provide a guide for Stratford, even if the communities and situations are different.

“Developers have lots of choices when it comes to these kinds of projects, all through southwestern Ontario and into the states,” he says. “So the developer has to feel like the community wants his project, wants to buy into the vision — a shared vision, of course — but one that is viable and practical.”

Read an extended interview with Jeff Westeinde here.

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Windmill Developments is proud to announce that we have reached a partnership with the incomparable Donald Trump to create an iconic 99 story Trump Tower in the heart of Ottawa. “I couldn’t be happier to be partnering with Windmill,” says presidential hopeful Trump, “they represent my brand perfectly – the glitz, the glamour, you have no idea.”

The Windmill Trump Tower is intended to set a new standard for luxury development, including full walk-in refrigerators, immersive monsoon showers, and essential oil infused bidets all standard in most suites.

While final details are still being worked out, a small underutilized area of the Experimental Farm has been identified as the preferred site for this new Ottawa landmark. Units to start at $1m, with a launch date tentatively set for April 1, 2017.

This was all in good fun – APRIL FOOL’S!

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With Zibi and Cathedral Hill sitting on the edge of LeBreton Flats, you could imagine our excitement when the NCC announced it was taking proposals for this seemingly forgotten parcel of significant land. Situated along the river and near Chaudière Falls, this area has been without a community since 1960. Its redevelopment represents a unique opportunity to create a vibrant urban centre that will transform Ottawa.

On January 26 th and 27th 2016, the public was presented with two competitive proposals for the area; Illumination LeBreton and LeBreton Re-Imagined. The ambitious bids include museums, parks, plazas and notably, an NHL arena. Both have a focus on Canadian heritage, connectivity and boast various degrees of environmental conservation. Illumination, with its sustainability plan based on the One Planet framework, is set to create one of the largest and most sustainable eco-districts in North America, if not globally.


(Photo caption) Illumination LeBreton rendering showing a snapshot of their proposed landscape.

(Photo caption) Aerial view of the Science & Innovation Pavilion conceptualized by LeBreton Re-Imagined.

LeBreton Flats sits between Cathedral Hill, one of Windmill’s vibrant luxury residential offerings and Zibi, Windmill’s sustainably designed multi-use community set for occupancy in Fall 2017. This central area’s revival means sporting events, concerts and festivals right next door; access to the LRT and other public transit systems; an endless selection of local restaurants and retail; a short walk to museums, cultural centres, a library, and much more. All alongside the Ottawa River.

On a broader scale, increased activity means more jobs for our community and an inevitable rise in the value of nearby condos and townhomes. A recent study has shown that urban properties within 5 km of a stadium and within 500m of a light rail are proven to increase in price by approximately 40%.*. The increase is most dramatic in urban settings, particularly if combined with urban amenities and public space.

The LeBreton redevelopment will no doubt become one of Ottawa’s most cherished ‘hoods and yield great results for Cathedral Hill and Zibi residents, the community and the National Capital Region.

Have your say on the future of LeBreton Flats!

We invite you to consider both proposals and share your comments with the NCC:

Great things are on the horizon for LeBreton Flats and we can’t wait to see it all come to life, right next door!


*Source: REIN (2015, October), The Impact of Stadium Construction on Real Estate Values.

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Ottawa, January 25, 2016 – As part of its bid for the Lebreton Flats redevelopment, the RendezVous LeBreton Group has developed a bold vision for sustainability, one that will see it become one of the largest sustainability-driven urban developments in North America.

RendezVous LeBreton, which is backed by the Ottawa Senators, has developed a sustainability plan based on the One Planet Living framework; the same aggressive standard being used by Windmill Development’s Zibi project located a stone’s throw away on Chaudière Island. Located between Zibi and the Ottawa Centre EcoDistrict, RVLG’s sustainability plan is poised to create one of the largest, and most sustainable, urban districts in North America, if not globally.

Guided by the One Planet Living framework, the Group has created a development plan that is based on ten principles, ensuring the project is sustainable socially, environmentally, and economically. With as much focus on people as the environment, RVLG aims to create a community where it is easy, attractive, and affordable for people to lead happy and healthy lives using a fair share of the earth’s resources.

“Many redevelopment projects tend to focus on environmental issues, such as reducing construction waste, but this team decided at the outset that to create a world-class development we needed a project that people would benefit from, and feel connected to,” said Steve Dulmage of BuildGreen Solutions, the sustainability advisors to the project.

RVLG acknowledges that achieving all principles within the One Planet Framework will be a challenge on a project of this size, particularly zero carbon, but as Dulmage points out: “The history of this site includes innovation and entrepreneurialism, so why shouldn’t we set ambitious targets that will require a similar mindset to achieve them?”

This attitude has already resulted in a number of novel ideas. The project team has identified a potential partner that could see the Event Centre become one of the first net-zero energy stadiums in the world; and a “purple pipe” system will be explored to reduce the amount of precious tap water used to flush toilets.

In addition to pursuing One Planet endorsement, the team’s sustainability plan also commits to meeting the NCC’s mandated goal of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for New Construction for all new buildings. However, RVLG has gone a step further and has committed to meeting LEED’s community standard as well, LEED for Neighbourhood Development.

Initiatives demonstrating a commitment to social responsibility include planned affordable housing, vibrant gathering spaces for residents and visitors, recreational opportunities through the Sensplex and Abilities Centre, and programming that will help businesses and residents alike make healthier, and greener decisions. Of course, it all begins by decontaminating LeBreton Flats, and revitalizing a site that can be transformed from a brownfield into a community that adds value to the local economy, and enriches the city’s social and cultural fabric.

About Build Green Solutions

Build Green Solutions Inc. specializes in bringing the principles of sustainability – environmental, social, and economic – to bear on urban land development.

Since 1999, Build Green Solutions has worked on some of the most innovative projects in Canada: green buildings, sustainable infrastructure, and green community projects. By bringing a solutions-oriented and market-based approach, we have helped clients stretch for ambitious yet achievable sustainability goals by incorporating innovative strategies and technologies. These projects have included Windmill Development’s “Zibi”, “The Currents”, and “the Eddy” in Ottawa, “Aqua + Vento” in Calgary, and “Dockside Green” in Victoria.

About One Planet Living and One Planet Communities

One Planet Living is the vision of a world in which people enjoy happy, healthy lives within their fair share of the earth’s resources, leaving space for wildlife and wilderness.
The One Planet Living framework is based on ten easy-to-grasp principles covering areas such as carbon, waste, transport, food and water, and enables us to plan for, deliver and communicate sustainable development. The framework provides a clear, practical route map for a better way to live and do business.

Windmill Development’s Zibi project was recently named the world’s tenth One Planet Community.

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By: Jennifer Ditchburn The Canadian Press, Published on Tue Jan 26 2016

OTTAWA — Canadian cities are no strangers to boneheaded urban planning decisions — the Gardiner Expressway blocking access to Toronto’s waterfront, Montreal’s crumbling Turcot interchange, space-sucking viaducts in Vancouver.

But imagine hiding a magnificent waterfall in your downtown core. Take a bow, Ottawa.

“I would think across the country that most people don’t even know what the Chaudière Falls are,” said Ken Gray, publisher of the popular city blog The Bulldog.

The falls, where a whitewater tempest of the Ottawa River cascades over terraced rocks, has been dammed for hydroelectricity and is also blocked by dozens of empty buildings left over from the lumber and pulp and paper era.

“In its day, before they dammed it and did various things to it, it was an incredibly impressive waterfall, almost a cross between rapids and waterfall.”

Now, however, there’s finally a plan to pull back the industrial curtains — part of a long-awaited urban renewal in a capital that’s not had a serious update since Canada turned 100.

By itself, the “Zibi” development is compelling — residential and commercial buildings on 15 hectares of prime real estate, with the hydroelectric turbines buried underground to create new public viewing space for the falls.

But it’s just one of several major projects that will change the look of Ottawa over the next 10 to 15 years.

There’s a light-rail system planned, with underground stations downtown; a new city art gallery and central library; a fancy new glass entrance and atrium for the National Arts Centre; and maybe even a new downtown hockey arena.

It follows Landsdowne Park, a seven-hectare entertainment district beside the Rideau Canal that’s home to a renovated football stadium, and the tulip-shaped, glass-fronted convention centre in the heart of downtown.

“With the exception of the investment of the PanAm games in Toronto, on a per capita basis, our city is going to see more dollars into renewal projects than any other city in the country,” Mayor Jim Watson said in an interview.

“It’s a combination of public and private investment that we’ve never really seen in the history of our city to this extent.”

At the Zibi project, which straddles the Ontario and Quebec sides of the river, developer Rodney Wilts walks with purpose through a labyrinth of musty, rusty old buildings, the wood-block floor so blackened by time it looks like brick.

He opens a door to a 14-metre high space, as long as one-and-a-half football fields, that once housed Domtar’s main paper machine. In another room, out a smudged window, Wilts points out a mini-waterfall tumbling into a natural rock basin — the so-called “Devil’s Hole,” another natural wonder obscured by industrial buildup.

Some indigenous leaders say the area, considered sacred by the Algonquins, should be returned to the First Nations and protected. Wilts argues the company has consulted with First Nations, including putting out a call for aboriginal tradespeople. It has won some support within that community.

The development has also earned the endorsement of the “One Planet Community” network, built on a model of zero carbon, zero waste, and integration into the natural surroundings, said Wilts, a partner with Windmill Developments.

“Finally people will be able to come here, see the falls, get close to the falls, for the first time in living memory for anyone.”

Not far away is LeBreton Flats, a nondescript, scrubby area that served as a working-class residential area with some light industrial sites before it was bought by the federal government and razed in the 1960s.

After that, nothing happened for half a century. Until today.

The National Capital Commission will unveil the details of two bids vying to develop the land — both promising to build a new NHL arena. The existing home of the Ottawa Senators, the Canadian Tire Centre, is 27 kilometres from Parliament Hill.

Commission CEO Mark Kristmanson sees LeBreton as part of the “transformative” changes in the wider area just east of Parliament Hill, which includes the Zibi development and new pathways connecting islands in the Ottawa River.

“I would say in 10 years, it will be a city that’s turned back towards its waterways from a long century of being turned away from it,” Kristmanson said in an interview.

“And that’s an important goal for us and for the municipalities as well, because it’s a great natural asset for the capital that’s not fully realized.”

The city’s 1950 urban design plan took the railway out of the city centre, banishing the train station to an area far from downtown. Waterfront land created a “green belt” around the city, only to be cleaved by car-clogged parkways.

The changes will largely improve on — or reverse entirely — those elements of post-war, car-centric thinking.

The train station will be integrated into the light-rail system to make getting downtown even faster. Greenspace near the waterfronts will be made more accessible, and density will be built back up at LeBreton Flats.

There’s a buzz of construction activity around Parliament Hill, too. Several major buildings are being renovated — fitting, since the precinct was a full-on construction site when it opened for business 150 years ago.

The 10-year plan to renovate Centre Block, beginning in 2018, has set off a cascade of other projects across the precinct. The West Block is being retrofitted to accommodate the House of Commons. MPs will sit inside a courtyard with a glass roof. The pink Potsdam stone over the windows has a new pop.

A new undergrown visitor’s entrance will change Parliament Hill’s exterior look. And the former downtown train station, now called the Government Conference Centre, will become the Senate’s new home.

“The precinct hasn’t really undergone … a transformation as extensive as this probably since the buildings were originally built in the 1800s,” said Ezio DiMillio, director general of major Crown projects for the Public Works department.

“It is a significant volume of work. There’s a complexity about it.”

Does it all mean Ottawa is about to come alive, and perhaps even meet the nebulous definition of “world class”? Depends who you ask.

Earlier this month, Ottawa Citizen columnist and author Andrew Cohen came to the provocative conclusion that, “for its lack of ambition and absence of imagination, Ottawa is the worst capital in the G7.”

The Bulldog’s Gray, agrees the city has suffered from a lack of urban planning vision and imagination, allowing itself to be led around by developers.

“This is a tourist town . . . and it would be wonderful for people from (elsewhere) to come here and go, ‘Wow, is that ever a great idea; boy, are they leading the pack in Ottawa,”’ said Gray.

“Unfortunately, they’re not going to see that. If you’re looking for innovation in this country, Ottawa’s probably not the place to go.”

Wilts sees the next decade differently.

“I think Ottawa’s is going to have all the best parts it has now,” he said, “but with a little more exciting urbanity — a few more places you can go on the water to have a drink, a few more plazas where festivals and music events and arts events can occur and happen.

“All of those things are starting to come.”

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