Windmill Developments officially began construction Thursday on Zibi, welcoming environmentalists and Algonquin partners to the launch of the $1.5-billion project on the banks of the Ottawa River.
By Haley Ritchie
“The fact that we’re standing here today putting a shovel in the ground a mere two years after announcing our intent to buy the property is testament to the cities realizing the vision for their downtown waterfronts,” said Jeff Westeinde, one of the founders of Windmill.
Zibi aims to be one of the most environmentally friendly communities in North America and has been endorsed as Canada’s first “One Planet Community” for sustainability.
Thursday’s event marks the beginning of the $200-million Phase One stage of the project. It will include the construction of two new residential buildings and the renovation of two former industrial structures as well as infrastructure.
Westeinde predicts the residential units will be move-in ready in by the spring of 2017.
The development will consist of both residential and commercial space – including a local brewery.
Westeinde said that Kichesippi Brewery wants a location on the islands and Wellington Street-based Thyme and Again wants to establish a café and catering business.
He said Windmill is also talking to a second brewery, a spa and multiple restaurants.
“Those aren’t at a stage that we can formally announce them but there’s a lot of interest in the site,” he said. “It’s going to be a cool spot.”
Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin was also on site for the ground-breaking and praised the project’s role in the revitalization of downtown Gatineau.
The project has created a division between different Algonquin bands that went to the AFN earlier this week. It has also drawn protesters to the site that want to see the sacred islands converted to parkland and given to the Algonquin people.
Only supporters attended Thursday’s event. Among them were elder Cliff Meness from Pikwàkanagàn and Andrew Decontie, president of Kitigan Zibi-based Decontie construction.
Decontie described the partnership with Windmill as “a dream come true.”
This article originally appeared onmetronews.ca on Dec. 10.