Interview with Rodney Wilts

Rodney Wilts, a partner at Windmill Development Group, has a big role to play in the coming years as he helps to guide Zibi [meaning river in Algonquin, www.zibi.ca], one of the most significant brownfield redevelopments anywhere by Windmill and by Dream Unlimited Corp. The $1.2 billion project on the Ottawa River, between Ottawa and Gatineau, will refurbish the Domtar industrial buildings and add new residential, commercial and public space.

SABMag: Zibi is being called a ‘beacon’ project. What’s the vision for it?

RW: The vision is to transform a contaminated and tired former industrial site into a sustainability showpiece less than one kilometre upriver from Parliament Hill.  We had eight design principles based on the One Planet Living model [www.bioregional.com/oneplanetliving] that guided the master planning ranging from ‘Design with Ecological Systems in mind’ to ‘Celebrate Heritage’ to ‘Foster and Enable Healthy Living’.

SABMag: The project is complicated by the various levels of government. How do you collaborate with them?

RW: We’ve had the great pleasure of collaborating with Ottawa, Gatineau and the National Capital Commission. We’ve treated them as partners in the project, looking to deliver on their key priorities like intensification, improved public realm, greenhouse gas reductions, tourism etc.

SABMag: Will Zibi follow the same design model that Windmill created for Dockside Green in Victoria?

RW: Each project we do is unique, and informed by place and community. We have taken some of the things we learned from Dockside and applied them to Zibi, but in many ways Zibi is more ambitious. The number of heritage buildings, and the incredible rich history of the site are very different than what we had at Dockside.

SABMag:There is still industrial activity nearby so how can you incorporate that into the project?

RW: The Kruger Mill is still operating just downriver on the Gatineau, Quebec near the Canadian Museum of History. We’re looking to capture waste heat from Kruger as part of our district thermal plant.

SABMag: What will the first phase of Zibi entail?

RW: We have a first phase in Ottawa and a first phase in Gatineau already launched. Each of those phases consists of repurposed heritage assets, an amazing public square, and new, green mixed-use buildings.  Each first phase is intended to be a microcosm of all the great things that will be delivered by the broader development.

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