Cleanup and Smart-In-Up: A look at Ontario’s efforts to connect brownfields remediation, infill development and regional growth planning
By: Christopher De Sousa, PhD RPP, Professor, School of Urban and Regional Planning, Ryerson University
September 6, 2018
Background and Summary
The Ontario Government has prioritized the redevelopment and intensification of brownfields (previously used and potentially contaminated lands) to accommodate urban growth in key strategic areas. This blog draws on three research studies to examine progress in the assessment, remediation, and redevelopment of brownfields in Ontario since late 2004, when the government updated the cleanup regime and started implementing urban intensification strategies.
Overall, the research finds that brownfield reuse activity has been rather extensive in scale, character, and value during the time periods examined, particularly in Toronto’s strong market. Notwithstanding the important barriers identified by the private sector, cleanup and planning policy seem to be working together. Dense redevelopment is occurring in areas identified by the provincial growth plan and by municipal Community Improvement Plans (CIP), thus aligning with the prime sustainability objective of growing in and up instead of out. Changing land use and increasing density in CIP and other locations seem to be key municipal tools for supporting brownfield reuse, although more can be done in terms of financial support and streamlining approvals, particularly in weaker markets and smaller cities surrounded by clean greenfields.
· 4,524 Records of Site Condition (RSC) covering 23,689 hectares of brownfields land (roughly the size of the city of Boston or Markham) were filed in Ontario from October 1, 2004 to December 31, 2015.
· Most brownfields were intended for conversion to Residential (67.5%) or Commercial (14.9%) use and had previously been used for Commercial (36.8%), Industrial (22.3%), and Agriculture/Other (18.7%) purposes.
· In Toronto, there are now 83,020 residential dwelling units (or 84,187 if units in “mixed” developments are included) on brownfields that were assessed/remediated between October 1, 2004 and June 30, 2011, with most being condominium apartments in central Toronto (53,286) and North York (15,319).