Sustainable housing and real estate in Kitchener-Waterloo Region

April 9, 2010, 8:37 pm
Filed under: Judita Makos, Sustainability

Brownfield properties have always suffered from negative perception. They’re considered to be contaminated, difficult to deal with and fraught with delays, high costs, and red tape.

Time and familiarity is needed for this to change. The push for urban intensification in recent years, and new programs and technologies  are already making maNy stakeholders take a closer look at the development potential of brownfields.

Major projects like FILMPORT in Toronto and the Halifax Seawall redevelopment show what can be done to revitalize brownfields.

Term “brownfield” covers a wide variety of sites. According to NRTEE  (National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy)  brownfields fall into three categories;

  • Top tier about 15 to 20 per cent of brownfields . These sites’ market value far exceeds the cost of remediation, and these sites are usually redeveloped quickly.
  • Middle tier – 60 to 70 per cent . Cost of clean up and the potential value are high. These sites present a great deal of development potential, but are too expensive or risky to clean-up. This category stands to benefit most from incentives or regulatory changes that could tip the balance between cost and profit to encourage development.
  • Bottom tier – 15 to 20 per cent; these are sites where cleanup cost would far outweigh the value of the land after cleanup. These sites have few development prospects.

Well-located brownfields often have a lot of development potential. Besides being closer to the city core than any new development could possibly be, these sites are usually already served by infrastructure such as utilities and roads – saving the need to build these from scratch.  It also saves greenfield land on a city’s outskirts. In fact, it’s estimated that every brownfield redevelopment saves an area four-and-half  times larger from being developed in suburbs.

Brownfields redevelopment can also have a hugely positive impact on the neighbouring communities.  Sites tend to be in the older parts of cities. Experience has shown that redeveloping a brownfield reinvigorates  the surrounding communities, creating more economic and social activity in the area.

by Judita Makos

More information about brownfields in Ontario


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