URBAN REAL ESTATE IN CONTEXT
Rodney WIlts, Windmill Development Group
Blue Panda is committed to delivering you exclusive information, updates and reports on real estate in Ottawa’s urban core. This month we turn to Rodney Wilts, partner at Windmill Development Group, a visionary real estate development company that has overseen such projects as The Eddy, Cathedral Hill, and Zibi, the upcoming residential, commercial and communal redevelopment of the historic industry site at Chaudière Falls on the Ottawa-Gatineau border. We met with Rodney to speak about the Zibi redevelopment project and the future of urban living in Ottawa.
As a partner at Windmill, what is your role in the company?
From a high-level, I’m the muscle and the looks. On a more granular level, I am heavily involved in new property acquisitions and re-zonings, sales and marketing and customer service.
Since Windmill is the greenest development company in Canada, what are some key principles that the company upholds that challenge the current industry standard?
Our entire company is predicated on something that is called the Triple Bottom Line - people, planet and profit. What that means is that we aim to create exemplary returns for the communities we work in, the environment and our shareholders. You can see how that gets reflected in our portfolio - we have a track record of creating some of the most ambitious green buildings and communities in the country.
How do you feel that Zibi will positively impact the local community from a cultural perspective?
Zibi will become one of the most significant communities in Ottawa. It will be the one area where you can visibly see reflections of the three founding nations (Algonquin, French and English). After 200 years of industrial activity, the area will finally become open to the public, with close access to the ring dam for the first time in living memory. Our industrial heritage, and the rich history of the National Capital Region will become visible through repurposed industrial buildings and artifacts. Finally, we aim for Zibi to become a home for arts and culture. We’ve already been leveraging the assets of Zibi to host concerts, food events, and visual and dramatic artists.
How do projects like Zibi help construct a new identity for Ottawa, not simply as a tourist city but as a dynamic metropolitan center?
Jane Jacobs (the renowned author and urban planner) once said ‘new ideas require old buildings’. Ottawa is already in transformation, diversifying from a sleepy government town, into a home of innovation and accomplished knowledge workers. Our community is designed to foster and enable innovation, bringing people together in a visually stunning neighbourhood, continuously animated with events celebrating the arts, outdoor adventure and sustainability, with an interesting blend of industrial heritage, natural splendor and new sustainability showpieces. Zibi will help shape the identity of Ottawa in the same way Granville Island helped shape Vancouver, and the Distillery District influences Toronto.