First Zibi restaurants, retail to open in Gatineau by spring 2019

Zibi

As work continues on turning a derelict 37-acre former industrial site on the Ottawa River into a new mixed-use community, the developers behind the project say they expect Zibi’s first commercial tenants to start moving into their units this fall.

In a project update on Tuesday, the developers behind the massive redevelopment sketched out a rough timeline for the completion and occupancy of Zibi’s first buildings.

Zibi president Jeff Westeinde previously told OBJ that the inaugural residents would start moving into units in the “O” Building, located just east of Eddy Street near the north shore of the Ottawa River in Gatineau, this October.

Speaking with reporters this week, he added that the ground-floor commercial space of the six-storey building will be turned over to a restaurant and retailers this fall and open no later than the spring of 2019. Westeinde did not identify the commercial tenants.

A public square, connecting the 70-unit O Building to the waterfront and dubbed “Zibi Plaza,” is also slated to be ready when the first residents arrive.

 

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On the Ottawa side, the 71-unit “Kanaal” Building – located on Chaudière Island on the west side of Booth Street – is expected to be ready for residents in the fall of 2019.

Other parts of the project that the developers will soon be tackling include:

  • A 14-storey rental tower near the “O” Building;

  • A hotel next to the new rental building;

  • Additional retail space, for what Westeinde hopes will be a food store;

  • Demolition of the large Gatineau Mill that’s long obstructed views across the Ottawa River.

“This site is really an incredible piece of land between the two cities, two provinces,” Westeinde said, speaking in French. “It's rare to have a view of both downtowns like this.”

Rather than taking a wrecking ball to the mill and levelling the property as quickly as possible, the developers plan to dismantle it brick by brick and reuse as many pieces as possible.

Dream ups equity stake

Ottawa-based Windmill Development Group initiated the Zibi project five years ago through its acquisition of the E.B. Eddy mills from Domtar.

Since then, the team driving the project has evolved.

For starters, Windmill is no longer involved. In its place is Theia Partners, a new development agency formed by Westeinde along with Peter Busby, Scott Demark and Rodney Wilts.

Additionally, Toronto-based real estate company Dream Unlimited came on board around 2015. The firm manages about $14 billion of assets and has developed some projects in Toronto’s Distillery District and the Athlete’s Village for the 2015 Pan-Am Games.

On Tuesday, Zibi said that Dream had doubled its equity stake in the project earlier this year, increasing it to 80 per cent.

“We’re going to go as fast as we can to create the community we want here.”

“We have about $85 million invested in this project,” said Dream president Michael Cooper. “We’re going to go as fast as we can to create the community we want here,” he added.

Once completed, Zibi is slated to be home to some 5,000 residents in addition to 6,000 office workers.

Some observers have questioned whether there is sufficient demand in central Ottawa to support Zibi as well as the planned redevelopment of LeBreton Flats and the rental skyscrapers at Bayview Station.

Westeinde conceded in May that he’s glad Zibi is “first out of the gate” and noted this week that Zibi has other key advantages.

“We are the only waterfront community in our region,” he said. “The location speaks for itself.”


Earlier this year, Jeff Westeinde joined the Ottawa Real Estate Show to discuss Zibi. Watch the full interview here: