November 1, 2004

Fourth Brownie Awards recognize creative projects, strategies for contaminated sites

Creative projects and strategies for environmentally and economically beneficial revitalization of contaminated sites were honoured for the fourth consecutive year as the Canadian Urban Institute presented its 2004 Brownie Awards at Brownfields 2004, the fifth Annual Brownfields Conference and trade show, held October 21 and 22 in Toronto. Awards were given in five categories, with special recognition for projects in the small-to-medium and large-scale range, individual achievement and best overall project.

The categories and winners are summarized as follows.

1. Policy and Program Development at the National or Provincial Scale: The remediation and redevelopment of a former highway maintenance yard in Grand Prairie, Alberta was the winner in this category. The project provided a model of public-private co-operation involving the city, two Alberta government departments and two private-sector remediation companies, Komex International and Hazco Environmental Services. The success of the cleanup and redevelopment of the 21.8-hectare property - originally the site of a small petroleum refinery - was facilitated by initiatives from both the municipal and provincial governments to remove financial, legal and liability barriers to remediation. As a result, cleanup work was completed over a one-year period, with 75% of the lands sold or committed and the property reclaimed for industrial and related commercial use, to the benefit of all the partners involved.

2. Programs, Communications, Education and Marketing at the Community Scale: The Toronto Economic Development Corporation (TEDCO) was the category winner for its Environmental Management Program and Brownfields Redevelopment Strategy. The program represents a unique partnership involving TEDCO, the city of Toronto and the Ontario Ministry of Environment (MOE). Developed over ten years ago to address brownfields in Toronto's Port Lands and elsewhere in the city, the program consists of both an area-wide and an individual site environmental management and remediation strategy which together serve to meet provincial requirements and act as a catalyst for new economic investments.

3. Green Design and Technological Innovation: TOHU, La CitÈ des Arts du Cirque, in Montreal, was honoured as a model for an organic approach to community renewal. Built near the former Miron quarry which later became one of the largest municipal solid waste disposal sites in North America, the project incorporates the application of "green" design principles as well as the use of innovative environmental technologies such as an ecological heating system (derived from recovered biogas), a cooling basin and passive geothermics, retention basis, natural/hybrid ventilation, and the use of recycled steel for the structure of the entrance hall. TOHU was also named the Best Project Overall, cited for its superior performance in all aspects of urban design, public space, innovation and contribution to the environment and advancing the public interest through support of public policy.

4. Capital Financing and Risk Management: Wallaceburg Industrial Mega-Centre, in Wallaceburg, Ontario was chosen to receive the award in this category. The rehabilitation of a former glass factory relied on an innovative financial partnership involving CRA Developments Limited (CRADL), Wallaceburg Preferred Partners (WPP) and Gil and Sons Limited (GSL). The partners crafted an agreement which helped overcome financial obstacles such as finding capital while resolving liability and risk management issues associated with brownfield cleanup and redevelopment. The arrangement benefited all parties: CRADL realized a $1.9-million capital improvement to the site and gained a long-term tenant; GSL was sole-sourced for construction of the redevelopment; and WPP got a new manufacturing and assembly facility at a fraction of the cost of building on greenspace. The project also created jobs for more than 200 people.

5. Heritage/Adaptive Re-Use: Two projects received awards in this category. London Landing, a 10.5-acre site in Richmond, British Columbia, represents the transformation of former industrial properties into a mixed-use and residential development whose design complements the historical setting and creates new public amenities. The second award went to the University of Waterloo's School of Architecture, in Cambridge, Ontario. This project converted the former Riverside silk mill in the Galt core of downtown Cambridge into the new home for UW's School of Architecture. In addition to removal of contaminated soil from the site, the project features maximum re-use of the existing building, which helped keep redevelopment costs down. The use of this heritage building, overlooking the Grand River, for one of North America's leading design schools, is also intended to spark revitalization and create a new focal point for the interaction of "town and gown."

The Brownfielder of the Year award for individual achievement was presented to Councillor Marguerite Ceschi-Smith of Brantford, Ontario. A long-time advocate for brownfields, she has been involved in the field for more than a decade and has been active in committees at the national, provincial and municipal levels, including the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Canadian Brownfields Network and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

Billed as Canada's greenest residential high-rise, The Currents, in Ottawa, Ontario received the Brownie as the Best Small/Medium-Scale Project. The Windmill Development Group will be breaking ground on the development early next year. Situated on a former commercial site used for decades as a gas station, dry cleaner and car wash, the building is designed to demonstrate how "green" features can pay for themselves in the competitive, high-end condo market. The project will incorporate innovative technologies meeting both high environmental standards and the time and cost requirements of the market.

The award for the Best Large-Scale Project went to Toronto's historic Distillery District, the redevelopment of a group of former industrial buildings into a multi-use commercial, arts and residential complex which comprehensively addresses economic, environmental and social sustainability with high-quality urban design and attention to public spaces.

Hosted by the Canadian Brownfields Network and the Canadian Urban Institute, this year's conference was the first two-day event, with optional workskops, training, and tours making up the second day's program. Keynote presentations were given by Toronto Mayor David Miller, Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell, Ontario Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky and Ontario Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Gerretsen.

Conference sponsors included: aboutRemediation.com; Canada Lands Company; EcoLog Information Resources Group; Gowlings, Marsh Canada; CH2MHILL; Jacques Whitford; XCG Consultants; and EcoLog ERIS.

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