BY MARILYN WILSON, THE OTTAWA CITIZEN OCTOBER 1, 2015Windmill Developments has a plan to become known around the world for its creation of environmental developments. Case in point — its ambitious mixed-use project Zibi on the former Domtar lands, a condo development that Rodney Wilts, one of five Windmill partners, says will be a “sustainability showpiece.” The company is aiming for it to be among the greenest developments in the world.
In a one-on-one, Wilts went on to give me a great overview of Windmill, as well as his insider’s take on the Ottawa condo scene.
Let’s start with Zibi. What distinguishes this development from others in Ottawa?
“Real estate always starts with location,” says Wilts, a statement with which I firmly agree. “Ottawa is an amazing waterfront city with almost no waterfront real estate.”Zibi will straddle Quebec and Ontario, offering a unique waterfront location that will be a “gateway to Gatineau Park.” Another goal is to incorporate art and Windmill has hired Artscape as a consultant to determine how best to promote artists on site.
So who is the target market for this development?
“Communities are healthiest when they’re diverse,” he says. That being said, the majority of condo buyers in our city are downsizers and first-time buyers.
What about the Ottawa condo market in general?
In the current market, “good projects in good locations continue to sell well,” Wilts says of new builds. And although projects in secondary locations tend to sit for a long time, he anticipates the new condo market will pick up in a year or two.
Interestingly, “downtown towns,” or townhomes built as part of urban developments, are a new fixture on our condo scene and Wilts thinks buyers have been slow to embrace them simply because they don’t know they exist. Windmill’s Cathedral Hill project at Sparks and Queen streets is just one development offering urban towns.
Looking ahead to 2016 and 2017, Wilts has an interesting take on coming trends. He anticipates “social trends” will be big, meaning an increased emphasis on social spaces within a development. And he thinks we can look forward to different and more creative suite types. Compared to New York, Toronto or Vancouver, “we offer very standard suites,” he says of our conservative condo market. Plus we can look forward to more urban townhomes, two-storey mezzanine units and the like — all very exciting.
So how does Windmill see itself? “We are a quality developer and we believe in lasting value,” says Wilts.
This is a great thing from a buyer’s perspective. All buyers seek units with staying power, both design and investment-wise. It’s great to know that Wilts (and Windmill) is thinking about the future and even better to think that their future is sustainable.
Marilyn Wilson has been selling real estate for more than 25 years and owns Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties Inc. Brokerage, an Exclusive Affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate. She can be reached through dreamproperties.com.