by Gilles Brisebois, CEO of LA Group, Kemptville
I was born and raised 50 minutes away from Kemptville, although it was further then. That was four decades ago. The highway access to Kemptville wasn’t nearly as convenient. The 416 was a two-lane highway, and it was never going to support the growth that could sustain our town. If I didn’t know it before, it was obvious I was always going to belong to Kemptville when I found myself mobilizing our community leaders in the effort to widen the highway. After a lot of collective work, the highway was made a reality, and my commitment to the region was forever cemented.
You could say the rest is history, but that’s not quite true. Kemptville’s transition is ongoing, and I have never let that fact slip from my mind or motivations. I’ve seen first hand what happens when poor planning is allowed to seep into a place. I grew up in Orleans, and swore that the sprawl and disappearance of a lively, character-filled downtown would never be the fate of Kemptville.
When I first arrived in Kemptville as a teen, it was to study agriculture at the College. Then I got the building bug. It runs in my family. One house led to another. Gradually, I realized I wanted to grow communities instead of crops.
I’ve had successes along the way, and, I admit, I’ve run into challenges as well. Seven years ago, I wanted to add to Kemptville’s affordable housing stock. An opportunity presented itself, but even with all my eagerness, the viability of the components did not come together and the vision fell apart. It is perhaps my greatest regret. There were many lessons learned. A successful development needs all components to align harmoniously: the lot with the environment around it; the surrounding facilities with the prospective new residents; the network of builders planning the edifice; and all the dots that populate a blueprint of connectivity. I’ve applied these lessons to everything I’ve worked on since.
One of my aims has always been to ensure accessibility. A fully connected community is the epitome of this, and it’s something we all need. Speedy, efficient wifi in the area is a must, and I’m as determined as I was so many years ago with the highway widening that it arrives in our community with no further delay. It’s a lot like that highway, really. What it brings in is essential to our prosperity as a community. Long meetings with decision makers at the offices of the leading internet providers have gained headway. This massive change is now just on the horizon.
Today, we have a new project taking shape in Kemptville called Oxford Village, that is rooted in those very principles. It’s glowing with potential, and I’m proud to say my construction company, LA Group, is at the helm. The new planned community will sit on 160 acres, amid 50 acres of protected forest and wetland. The mixed residential flavour is designed to accommodate 398 living units that include 143 single units, 167 townhomes, and 88 multi-residential units. An incredibly healthy percentage of the homes to be built will be affordable housing. A great many more will be truly attainable. But the mixed nature of the planned community is exactly what is required in order to be a functioning, welcoming livable place. After all, the lack of these elements is part of what is driving many National Capital dwellers to seek a better life in a town like Kemptville.
These new neighbours of ours will not only offer a welcome boost to so many aspects of our economy, their addition will actually enable the central core of our town to remain vibrant and become even more of a hub. Our community centres will have more support. Our small businesses will enjoy more customers – a truly necessary change after the brutal obstacles that the past year has thrown at the world.
I hope Kemptville can continue to grow in the image that we all have for it, maintaining a strong core with a constant sense of heritage. Just as in Victoria, BC, and Quebec City, these are the things that build a beautiful, livable town. It’s our pledge in Oxford Village, too. It’s all part of the greater community that I’ve come to know as the only place I can call home.