A unique place to live: Zibi keeps growing along the Ottawa River

OTTAWA — Situated on the banks of the Ottawa River, Zibi Canada says it is building a city within a city, a unique development, combining residences, businesses and recreation in one place.

Breaking ground in 2015, the 34-acre site now has about 600 residents and 800 employees working in buildings built on the reclaimed industrial lands.

With zip lines, performance spaces and a beer garden, not to mention a growing retail presence, Zibi Canada says its goal is to create a livable and sustainable community where you can find everything you need without having to drive your car.

Jeff Westeinde, president of Zibi Canada, says building a sustainable community is about more than just the environmental footprint, it is about the overall quality of life for residents, employees and visitors to the site.

Westeinde says the heating and cooling systems create zero carbon emissions but that’s just a start.

“A big part of it is social inclusion. We get rated every year on the happiness of the people that live here,” Westeinde said. “How often do you have to get into your car when you need to get a bag of milk or coffee is a great indicator of how happy and healthy you are.”

James Dean, who was visiting the site with his wife to try the new interprovincial zipline, was pleased to see the lands being redeveloped but has concerns that the Zibi site may turn into a playground for those that can afford it. With prices for condos starting in the mid $300,000 range, he’d like to see a more mixed community.

“I think it’s it a pretty neat thing to do when you have undeveloped area along the waterfront,” Dean said. “But you can build all the great condos you want but that’s going to be for people on the high-end. People of low income don’t have the ability to find a decent place to live.”

Recently Zibi received a $10 million loan from the federal government to build 200 affordable rental units in Gatineau.

Westeinde saying Zibi sits on the site of the first European settlement in Ottawa Gatineau, he believes it will become once again heart of the region. With the site only 20 per cent complete, it will take at least another decade to complete the project.

“This will be the hub of everything that happens on both sides and more importantly a real physical and social link across the river,” said Westeinde.”

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