Work could begin in less than a year on one of the most high-profile developments to emerge on the National Capital Region’s skyline in a generation.
© Photo provided
An artist's rendering shows part of Windmill Developments' proposed $1-billion plan for Chaudiere and Albert islands.
By Jacob Serebrin
The rezoning application allowing Windmill Developments to turn the former Domtar lands on Albert and Chaudière islands into a mixed-use community still has to be approved, but the developer is already eager to get the project off and running.
“We’re hopeful we’ll break ground next spring,” said Windmill partner Rodney Wilts.
Phase one of the project is estimated to cost more than $1 billion and involves the retrofitting and repurposing of buildings on Albert Island. There are also plans to construct a new mid-rise mixed-use building on the site.
On the Gatineau side of the river, the developer is planning two new buildings, which will be primarily residential.
Mr. Wilts said he’s optimistic residents could start moving in as early as fall 2015 if everything goes smoothly.
“We’ve received all the right signals,” he said. “There’s no question we’ve seen an incredible level of support from the City of Ottawa, the City of Gatineau and the NCC.”
That includes a significant amount of co-operation between the three organizations, which have frequently been faulted for their collective lack of co-ordination.
“Windmill persuaded them to create a unique design review panel,” said Dennis Dornan, a San Francisco-based project manager with Perkins+Will, the prime planning and design contractor on the project.
That meant that instead of 12 review meetings – four with each zoning regulator – the developers and planners were able to hold a joint meeting just four times.
“We could have approached it as two projects,” Mr. Dornan said, but both the developers and the planners wanted to do it as one, as part of a vision to “unite and connect the two cities more than they have been in the past.”
For Mr. Dornan, there are a lot of things about the project that stand out.
“It’s an astonishing piece of property,” he said. “It’s been industrial land for 150 years – it’s been gated.”
Once work is done, though, it will be the opposite.
“People will feel like this is another part of the city,” Mr. Dornan said. “These are public streets and public squares.”
He said a lot of his work has been focused on figuring out the right height and location for the buildings. There has also been work to figure out which existing buildings can be repurposed and which need to be replaced.
While Mr. Dornan isn’t based in Ottawa, many of the sub-consultants – everyone from wind analysts to traffic experts – are.
But even with the initial plans solidified, there’s still a lot of work to be done. The project could take up to 15 years, though Mr. Wilts said he’d love it to be finished sooner.
He said that when it comes to construction, there will be pretty steady activity once things get rolling.
While he wouldn’t say exactly how Windmill intends to select contractors, Mr. Wilts said the company will use firms it has worked with before as well as some new ones.
“It’s a big project, so there’s going to be lots of opportunities,” he said.