Developers hold exclusive preview party for new Zibi House in Gatineau

Building features observation tower with views of sustainable community and redevelopment project
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Even with wet, grey skies, the views from the new observatory tower at Zibi are impressive.

Special guests were invited Tuesday to an exclusive preview of a new building that will serve as a hub for what developers hope will become one of the most eco-friendly urban waterfront communities around. It's called Zibi, which means "river" in Algonquin.

Thirty-seven acres of former industrial land are being turned into a mixed-use residential, retail and commercial space, spanning both the Quebec and Ontario sides of the Ottawa River. Once it's done, the downtown community will feature condos, shops, offices, waterfront parks and pathways. 

Reaching the present construction stage has been a complex process, due to the involvement of multiple jurisdictions and government bodies, said Jeff Westeinde, one of the key developers behind the ambitious $1.5 billion redevelopment. 

“I feel like I’ve been pushing a rock up a big hill for four years and it’s finally starting to roll down the other side,” Westeinde told at the party.

The new building, called Zibi House, is located at 25 rue Jos-Montferrand, just off Laurier Street, in Gatineau. It will serve not only as a presentation centre but also as a cultural and community centre for hosting events and for giving the public a feel for what Zibi is offering.

Theia Partners principal Jeff Westeinde and his wife, Colleen Westeinde, at the exclusive preview of Zibi House, on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Tuesday’s event invited members of the media, community partners and collaborators, and prospective tenants. Zibi aims to have 50 percent of its retail space occupied by local independent businesses. “In the next six months we’ll announce some really cool partnerships,” said Westeinde.

Andrew Bassett, co-owner of Little Victories Coffee Roasters, was eyeing the space for a possible expansion. So were Carley Schelck and her husband, Oliver Schelck, co-owners of the Urban Element cooking studio and event space.

So earthy is the vibe inside Zibi House that there's even a serviceberry tree growing right in the front lobby. It's part of Zibi's efforts to reintroduce native species back to the area. Guests were served such dishes as cured salmon gravlax, presented on boughs of spruce and pine.

The building includes a series of rooms that allow the public to experience Zibi through all five senses. In one room, there’s the fresh scent of growing switchgrass while, in another, a spot where guests can taste honey that’s been harvested on the property. There's a cosy room with a cushioned seating area for listening to the music of Jeremy Dutcher, a classically-trained Canadian Indigenous tenor and winner of the 2018 Polaris Music Prize. Another of the rooms features tranquil images of moving water.

Guests were invited to take a freight elevator up to the observatory on the top floor to soak up the views, which included the Ottawa River's mighty Chaudière Falls and Parliament Hill.

Zibi House officially opens to the public next Wednesday.

Gloria Wallace, commercial leasing coordinator at Zibi, with Andrew Bassett, from Little Victories, in the observatory located on the top of the new Zibi House. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
Carley Schelck and Oliver Schelck, from Urban Element, check out the scale model at an exclusive preview held Tuesday, April 23, 2019, at the new Zibi House in Gatineau. Photo by Caroline Phillips
From left, Mom in the Know blogger Julie Findlay with Jennifer Tackaberry, vice president of sales for Ottawa At Home Media Inc., Krista Kealey, vice president of communications and public affairs at the Ottawa International Airport Authority, and her sister-in-law, Korey Kealey, with RE/MAX Hallmark Realty Group, at the exclusive preview for the new Zibi House, located at the multi-use redevelopment of prime downtown Ottawa waterfront. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
From left, Ottawa Business Journal publisher and Great River Media president Michael Curran with Mark Tomkins, senior producer and editor at CTV, and his wife, Andrea Tomkins, editor of the Kitchissippi Times, at the exclusive preview of Zibi House. Photo by Caroline Phillips
From left, Annie Boucher from Fuse Communications and Public Affairs, with Scott Simpson, events and community lead at Zibi, and Anita Murray, president of All Things Home, at the exclusive preview of Zibi House. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Ottawa influencers Chantal Sarkisian, left, and Katie Hession at the exclusive preview of Zibi House. Photo by Caroline Phillips