The Isles are one step closer to reality.

The Isles is the name of a billion dollar residential and commercial development proposed for the old Domtar lands on the Ottawa River. It also offers public access to a place that has long-been cut off to the public, historic Chaudiere Falls. “We think it's going to be huge, says Rodney Wilts of Windmill Developments. “ I mean, this is a part of downtown, both for the City of Ottawa and the Ville de Gatineau that's been off-limits for the public for as long as anyone can remember.”

Windmill Developments first unveiled the plans last spring when it submitted a re-zoning application.

Since then it has sought and received site plan approval from both cities of Ottawa and Gatineau.

Now it has the third necessary stamp of approval. The NCC Board of Directors unanimously favoured the plan on Tuesday. “I think, as one board member said, it could be a game-changer for the capital and a once in a generation opportunity,” says NCC CEO Mark Kristmanson.

But not everyone is happy with the idea, arguing the falls are sacred to Algonquin First Nations. Several people have filed appeals with the Ontario Municipal Board.

One is famed architect Douglas Cardinal who also argues that, by approving private development on the river, the NCC is abandoning the original master plan for the Capital. “I think those islands should be a public domain, should be our, almost our small little Stanley Park,” he says.

Both the NCC and Windmill acknowledge there are plenty of issues to be resolved before the project can go ahead. “No, we can't start digging tomorow, unfortunately, says Wilts. “But we are hoping that this spring we'll have a sale centre open and start some construction work in the fall.”

Even if it hits all the necessary green lights, it could still be several years before The Isles transforms the heart of the Capital Region.