Imagine a place where homes open onto gardens fed by streams from the rainwater flowing off nearby rooftops. Narrow cobblestone streets lead past vibrant storefronts to the village green where a group of musicians plays and children romp on the grass. Solar panels are woven into rooftops and the sound of free-flowing water drowns out car traffic. This is not just a dream—it’s a plan for 40 acres of waterfront and rocky islands in the Ottawa River.
On Earth Day this year, Windmill Development Group, the self-proclaimed “Greenest Real Estate Company in Canada”, submitted plans for the village-scale project to the City of Ottawa for approval. Mayor Jim Watson immediately voiced his support, saying that the developers would be treated with a red carpet, rather than red tape.
The design is based on the One Planet Community’s approach to holistic neighborhood design. The premise is that every new development can be 100 percent accessible by foot and bike, produce the energy that is consumed, recycle all waste products, grow a portion of its own food, and be built with sustainable, recyclable materials. Windmill’s Ottawa project will meet all these goals, making it the next candidate for the short list of communities (10 so far) that have been endorsed by the organization to date.
It is expected to take 15 years to build, but eventually thousands of Canadians will call The Isles—the tentative name for the project—home. The site straddles the massive Ottawa River just below Chaudiere Falls; a crescent-shaped 50-foot cascade that was once a gathering grounds for First Nations tribes, who considered it sacred ground.
Years later, the falls was dammed for industrial purposes and factories colonized the surrounding islands and riverfront. The last of those factories closed recently and Windmill CEO Johnathan Westeinde seized the opportunity to put in an offer and assert a bold new vision. The project will re-purpose as many of the historic industrial buildings as possible, using their unique architecture to create a hybrid modern-heritage aesthetic for what is being called “the most sustainable community in the world.”