2019 Brownie Award Winners

The 20th annual Brownie Awards were presented at the Brownie Awards Gala, held November 24, 2019 at the Delta Toronto Hotel.

List of Winners

Category 1:  REPROGRAM – Legislation, policy and program initiatives

Waterloo Brownfields Financial Incentive - Waterloo, ON

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The Region of Waterloo is a leader in promoting brownfield redevelopment through its innovative and expansive financial incentives. The Region's Brownfield Financial Incentive Program (BFIP) currently employs two tools - the Joint Tax Increment Grant and the Regional Development Charge exemption - to reduce the costs and risks associated with brownfield redevelopment. This helps to level the playing field when compared to developing greenfield sites, as private developers are provided assurances that remedial costs will be covered once a building permit is issued and/or the site is occupied. In turn, the BFIP helps the Region achieve its growth management objectives and those of the Province of Ontario.

Initially launched as a pilot program in 2006, the Region of Waterloo's BFIP has provided over $40 million in financial incentives since 2007, contributing to the remediation and redevelopment of 21 brownfield sites totaling 74.9 hectares. Once construction is completed, these sites will accommodate 3,383 new residential units housing over 7,000 people, as well as 2.1 million square feet of non-residential floor area, representing almost 3,000 jobs. Overall, this amounts to over $900 million in increased assessment value, with every $1 of BFIP investment resulting in approximately $17 of property tax increase.

Demonstrating the importance of partnerships between upper and lower tier municipalities, the BFIP has served as a model for other programs across Ontario and the rest of Canada. The Region's dedication is evident through its continuous evaluation and improvement of the program, which is an approach that can be adopted by any municipality. The Waterloo BFIP serves as a widely replicable model that shows the investment of municipal or regional funds to catalyze brownfield development results in significant financial returns, and is a key tool in removing barriers to brownfield development.

Category 2:  REMEDIATE - Sustainable remediation and technological innovation

Anaerobic Bioremediation - La Ronge, SK 

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This project revolved around the remediation of a former industrial site in La Ronge, SK. The initial estimates for conventional remediation costs were $500,000, which was in excess of the land value, putting the site at high risk of abandonment. This represented a significant risk to the community, as the adjacent property and Lac La Ronge, the local potable water supply, were susceptible to contamination. Pinter & Associates were asked to investigate a more cost-efficient remediation solution.

Pinter's proposed anaerobic bioremediation was valued at $50,000, and included protections for the lake and its commercial fishing activities. This innovative approach involved the application of potassium sulphate at two strategic locations on the site that contained the contaminants and ensured that the identified impacts would not endanger properties downstream. The entire bioremediation process took two years and was completed in the fall of 2017. Groundwater sampling results revealed that soil concentrations had been reduced by more than 98%, while groundwater concentrations had been reduced by more than 85%. In February 2018, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment issued a clearance letter acknowledging the complete remediation of the property. It was later sold by the owners in early 2019, free of environmental liability.

The high costs associated with conventional brownfield remediation is a common problem in rural areas, where lower land values limit the viability of redevelopment. The innovative anaerobic bioremediation approach taken by Pinter & Associates represents a cost-effective solution for many abandoned gas station sites that can be found across Canada. This project can be seen as a model for underused and abandoned sites that are prevalent in low- to mid-market communities and would otherwise lie vacant.

And Remediation of Former EDC-VCM Plant - Varennes, QC

The site in question was a large, unused contaminated industrial site in Varennes, QC, that had formerly housed a vinyl chloride monomer plant before its closure in 1975. The region suffered economically following the closure of several chemical plants, with many job losses resulting in a desire to revitalize the region with new economic activities. The 63,000 m2 site was heavily contaminated, with its 330,000 metric tonnes of plastic clay being impacted with carcinogenic compounds (particularly vinyl chloride) at concentrations at an average of 14 times the applicable criteria. Groundwater concentrations were much more drastic, measuring at 4,000 times the applicable criteria. The site's proximity to residential neighbourhoods and agricultural fields meant that the stringent requirements for performing remediation were considered too risky, costly and impractical using conventional techniques.

Sanexen Environmental Services took on the task of innovating technologies to be developed, tested and optimized in order to remediate the soil and water impacted by chlorinated contaminants. This involved both an in situ and ex situ approach to tackle the challenging site. The soil and water was treated off-site through the use of regenerable filtration media to capture and separate the contaminants imprisoned within the plasticity of the clay. All of the soils that were removed from the site were returned to their original location, while pure contaminants were removed for thermal destruction. In situ, the groundwater was treated through biostimulation and thermal enhancement of biodegradation using heat recovered from the off-site regeneration. The water was then tested downgradient from the site to ensure that the applicable quality standards were met. The remediation process started in 2015 after five years of testing, and the site was sold to the municipality for development following its conclusion in 2019.

The degree of contamination and the nature of the chemicals involved made this a very complex project from a technical standpoint. The development of several new approaches to deal with significant contamination issues marks a considerable progression in the remediation of challenging sites. The multifaceted approach to dealing with a variety of ground-related issues and the reuse of soils on the site serves as an example for the redevelopment of similar sites in the future

Category 3:  REINVEST - Financing, risk management and partnerships

Park City Commons - Winnipeg, MB

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The Park City Commons Joint Venture is a 22.5 acre mixed-use development that will be a key part of the community regeneration in Transcona. The project will be situated on a site that formerly housed the Transcona Public Works Yard for the City of Winnipeg, which provided fleet maintenance, fueling operations, and outdoor storage of ice melting supplies until its closure in 2012. Following initial exposure to the development community, there were concerns that the site was at risk of being underutilized due to the potentially high remediation costs stemming from the large volume of soil that had been impacted by road salt. A joint venture planning model was proposed, that would see the City addressing the environmental impacts and redevelopment of the site in partnership with a private sector developer.

In 2015, the City of Winnipeg entered into a joint venture with EdgeCorp dubbed Park City Commons, with the City being responsible for the former vehicle maintenance facilities and Park City Commons dealing with road salt impacts. Park City Commons then retained Dillon Consulting to develop an Environmental Management Plan which was used to secure financing for redevelopment, as well as further assessment and remedial planning. The project was successful in its application for funding from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' Green Municipal Fund, marking just the second time this funding had been approved for brownfield redevelopment in Manitoba. This resulted in a 50 percent reduction in costs associated with environmental assessment and remedial planning. In the end, the Environmental Management Plan was able to reduce the costs related to salt impacts to less than $1 million, which was more than $5 million less than the initial expectations following the Environmental Site Assessment.

The Park City Commons project reflects the immeasurable importance of public-private partnerships in the redevelopment of brownfields. Its success points to the significance of the Green Municipal Fund and the immense impact that lowered remediation costs can have on the overall development process. Additionally, Park City Commons illustrates the smart growth principles associated with brownfield redevelopment, with the mixed-use development aligning with transit planning and growth targets, and the articulation of surface parking behind the buildings demonstrating sound urban design. This model can be replicated in a variety of different municipalities across the country, and is especially useful in communities such as Winnipeg that experience lower growth than other major urban centres.

Category 4:  REBUILD - Redevelopment at the local, site scale

Avenir Centre Sustainable Remediation - Moncton, NB

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The Avenir Centre is an 8,800 seat sports and entertainment centre situated in the heart of downtown Moncton. It officially opened in 2018, and has since spurred investment in the surrounding area. The site had historically been occupied by the Canadian National Railway until the early 1960s. It later became Highfield Square Mall, which eventually closed in September 2012. Environmental Site Assessments conducted between 2014 and 2015 revealed various types of soil and groundwater contamination that required the implementation of risk management measures to prepare it for commercial and residential uses. Golder Associates was retained by the City to develop a Risk Management and Remedial Action Plan.

This project marked the first time a brownfield site in the City of Moncton had been transformed through a risk management approach. Soils were separated based on contamination concentrations, and excess soils with lower contaminant concentrations that could not be used on-site were exported to be used for other projects. A sub slab vapour intrusion mitigation and extraction system was installed below the future ice surface. The design of the Avenir Centre makes it at least 45 percent more efficient than the National Energy code and meets Green Globes Standards. The Centre represents a strategic downtown investment for the City: prior to its approval, the total value of new development in downtown Moncton was as low as $8 million per year, with that number reaching as high as $45 million since the announcement of the Avenir Centre. This project represents an anchor for the revitalization and transformation of the city's downtown core.

The sustainable remediation of the site and the subsequent success of the Avenir Centre represent a great example of leadership in the brownfields sector, providing direction for other low-growth municipalities. The significant economic impact to the surrounding area is particularly important as it illustrates the potential that many brownfield sites possess. The use of risk management to reduce exporting costs and emissions should serve as a model for other projects looking to remediate brownfields in a sustainable and efficient way.

Category 5:  RENEW - Redevelopment at the community scale

Armour Road - Peterborough, ON

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East City Condos is the name of the mixed-use development that will eventually occupy the site on Armour Road that was formerly a hospital. Opened in 1890, St. Joseph's Hospital played an invaluable role in the community until it was decommissioned in 2008. It was not only a place where those in need could seek care, but the sprawling campus was viewed as a place of gathering for residents of Peterborough. The buildings and structures thus had cultural significance that would need to be preserved during redevelopment.

TVM Group purchased the former St. Joseph's site in 2009 and subsequently initiated the process of converting the complex into luxury apartments. The lands were subdivided into six properties to allow for phased development of rental and condominium housing. Converting the Nursing School was the initial phase, which was completed in April 2016 when 69 residential rental units were brought to market. Another 27 rental units were constructed in the 1922 addition, the completion of which was slated for 2019. Currently under site plan review is the 8 storey mixed-use building known as East City Condos. Through the redevelopment process, a balance was struck between preserving and reusing the existing heritage buildings and the full remediation of toxic materials.

This bold infill project will go a long way in helping the City of Peterborough achieve its residential and development targets for affordable and luxury housing. Due to the history of the site, the number of stakeholders and their respective interests, and the remediation of toxic materials, this project represented a significant challenge for all involved. The end result will be an inclusive, mixed-use space that promotes goals of sustainability while contributing to efforts to reduce urban sprawl and increase density.

Category 6:  REACH OUT - Communication, marketing and public engagement

Waterfront Area Plan - Ladysmith, BC

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Additional information is available at https://www.ladysmith.ca/docs/default-source/news-documents/2018-01-22-final-draft-plan.pdf

Both the Town of Ladysmith and the Stz'uminus First Nation (additional information in external PDF) have a long and storied connection to the Ladysmith Harbour. After thousands of years of sustainable use and stewardship of the harbour, the Stz'uminus began to be alienated from the site as it became increasingly important to the local coal and forestry industries. Decades of industrial activity rendered the area unusable to its indigenous inhabitants, who had benefited from its agricultural, cultural, spiritual, and economic assets. In light of this, the Town of Ladyship and Stz'uminus First Nation collaborated in 2016-2018 to develop a new Waterfront Area Plan that would be beneficial to both communities and enhance the spirit of the partnership.

In the past, redevelopment has been hampered by the estimated volumes of poor quality soil and sediments, as well as the associated costs of remediation. The collaborative process that ensued included extensive community and stakeholder engagement. The Waterfront Project Leadership Committee was formed, comprising of the Mayor of Ladysmith, the Chief of Stz'uminus First Nation, and members of both Councils. Several community-wide events were held such as a Special Speakers night that highlighted indigenous and non-indigenous perspectives. The engagement process culminated with a 2-day design charrette in early 2017, aimed at co-creating design ideas and solutions for waterfront development. Following the charrette, which was supplemented with additional online engagement, public meetings, and workshops, a draft plan was produced that was later refined by leaders of both communities. Following endorsement by the Stz'uminus First Nation, the Town of Ladysmith adopted the plan for a 50 hectare waterfront project in early 2018.

This ambitious project illustrates the importance of community engagement and collaborative processes. It is also a prime example of brownfield revitalization being incorporated into greater efforts of reconciliation between a municipality and its neighbouring First Nation. The breadth of the engagement and outreach efforts demonstrates not only the importance of community consultation, but also the benefits of collaboration and consensus.

Category 7:  Best small-scale project

Temporary Modular Housing - Vancouver, BC

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Additional information is available at http://www.horizonnorth.ca/news-and-knowledge-centre/projects/temporary-modular-housing/.

The building at 220 Terminal Avenue, Vancouver's first temporary modular housing project, is a collaborative initiative aimed at addressing the city's housing shortage. Built by Horizon North on lands provided by the City of Vancouver, the building uses innovative design ideas and products that can be relocated and reconfigured to fit a number of different sites. This is especially important to the surrounding context of the site, which was not only contaminated by its former use as a gas station, but was also situated within the False Creek Flats, where poor quality infilling had been conducted in 1917. The solution was a result of a joint effort by numerous public and private entities that provides much needed housing to some of Vancouver's most vulnerable residents.

220 Terminal Avenue was made possible by the use of innovative and unique design and construction techniques. The use of a "no soil disturbance" approach, including an elevated foundation featuring no footings and above-ground utilities, enabled the project to bypass the contaminated sites process. The associated requirements, including the submission of a Site Profile, municipal permit freezes, remediation, confirmation of remediation, and more, often inhibit the rapid development of brownfield sites. This novel approach meant that the City was able to deliver temporary affordable housing on an unused site while more permanent solutions are being developed.

Following the success of the 220 Terminal Avenue project, which was completed in February 2017, the Government of British Columbia announced a funding commitment of $66 million towards building 600 units of temporary modular housing in Vancouver. The City then adapted the contaminated sites management strategy that had been developed for the 220 Terminal Avenue project to deliver temporary modular housing on five additional vacant brownfield sites. As of March 2019, 605 units of temporary modular housing were delivered on ten properties across the City. As a model for other municipalities, this project serves as inspiration for cities facing issues regarding housing affordability and risk assessment and can be adapted to suit sites of a range of sizes. Its unique approach also demonstrates an innovative method for working around regulatory barriers to deliver a temporary solution in the fight against homelessness and housing insecurity.

Category 8:  Best large-scale project

Emily Carr University of Art and Design - Vancouver, BC

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Officially opened on September 5, 2017, the new campus for Emily Carr University of Art and Design (ECUAD) is a world-class facility designed for learning and production in the arts. The site was a former staging area used by Finning International to distribute industrial goods located on the False Creek Flats at Great Northern Way. Originally planned to be a collaborative neighbourhood for the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, the British Columbia Institute of Technology, and ECUAD, Emily Carr emerged as the lead occupant after years of enrollment growth highlighted the need for a new campus. The project was ultimately the result of a Public Private Partnership (P3), the first to be formed with a higher education institution in Canada.

As a former industrial site on the shoreline, the project sought to re-establish the natural ecosystem while referencing its historical uses through the use of reclaimed and industrial materials. A dedicated remediation process was initiated after the demolition of the existing industrial systems, with local and native plant species ensuring a return to the site's natural condition. ECUAD's presence in the area has been a catalyst in turning the new neighbourhood into the crossroads for the arts, design and creativity, and has stimulated investment in the area with the recent development of two private-sector buildings totaling over 250,000 square feet in area. The area is surrounded by a series of public outdoor spaces that provide connections to cycling networks, pedestrian walkways, new art galleries and future housing and mixed-use developments.

Emily Carr's new campus knits together surrounding destinations through the careful consideration of grade changes and efficient design that promotes health and wellness through active transportation. The integration of habitat restoration and economic revitalization demonstrates the potential of brownfields to transform neighbourhoods and spur local investment. The unique P3 approach has proved successful in catalyzing development, while sustainable design and LEED gold certification promotes the environmental benefits of brownfield regeneration. Overall, the ECUAD project is an exceptional example of collaboration between organizations for the benefit of the community and enhancement of the public realm.

Category 9:  Best overall project

Waterfront Toronto: Cherry Street Stormwater Lakefilling and Soil Reuse Program Approval - Toronto, ON

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Additional information is available at https://portlandsto.ca/wp-content/uploads/CSLF+project+backgrounder+Nov+2017.pdf - link to external PDF

The Cherry Street project is part of Waterfront Toronto's ambitious plan to transform Toronto's Port Lands. Situated just east of Toronto's downtown core, the site has the potential to address a number of urban and environmental issues. Its positioning between the mouth of the Don River and Lake Ontario renders it susceptible to major flooding, while the historical industrial uses had left the lands uninhabitable. Once completed, the project will contribute to Waterfront Toronto's mandate to redevelop Toronto's under-utilized waterfront and enhance the economic, social and cultural value of the surrounding areas. The intended outcome is to create an accessible and attractive waterfront for residential, commercial and recreational activities.

The remediation plan for Essroc Quay and the two adjacent water lots sought to deal with contamination issues on the site, as well as opening up lands for future development. Lakefilling techniques were incorporated to cap contaminated sediments, the aging dock walls were shored up to prevent flooding disasters, and a stringent infill program - compliant with provincial Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and local Toronto and Region Conservation Authority regulations - provides invaluable land that will contribute to the future of the Port Lands. In order to reduce the time and costs associated with remediation, risk assessment and risk mitigative measures were incorporated into the design. The result is that the Port Lands will have one hectare of new wetlands and a re-naturalized coastline accessible to the public as parkland, which will also increase aquatic diversity in the vicinity. Additional benefits include the potential to realign Cherry Street and the Cherry Street Bridge to improve access to the rest of the Port Lands.

The Cherry Street project represents a significant contribution to the brownfield redevelopment industry due to its acknowledgement of the significance of Toronto's Port Lands and its collaborative approach to addressing environmental challenges within a complex regulatory structure. It marks the first time that an Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks Program Approval has been used to provide the legal framework for reuse of up to 1.5 million cubic metres of soil, reflecting a commitment to support sustainable remediation and soil reuse. The use of risk assessment and a site specific approach has resulted in an innovative project that will enhance the public realm, boost local ecology and reduce the impact of natural disasters on Toronto's downtown.

Category 10:  Brownfielder of the Year

Andrew Decontie and Wanda Thusky, Decontie Construction - Maniwaki, QC

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Andrew Decontie, President of Decontie Construction, along with his wife and partner Wanda Thusky, have been awarded the 2019 Brownfielder of the Year in recognition of their leadership in the brownfield sector. Decontie Construction's standout project centres around the remediation of over 100,000 tonnes of contaminated soil on the site of the future Zibi redevelopment, a $1.2 billion mixed-use community situated along the Gatineau River between Ottawa and Gatineau. Other notable projects include the $4.5 million decommissioning of Hydro Québec's Corbeau facility and a recent brownfield redevelopment project in Parry Sound.

Andrew and Wanda are committed to improving access to employment opportunities that have historically been hard to come by in the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg territory and beyond. Decontie Construction is dedicated to opening doors for First Nations tradesworkers that have been unable to complete their on-the-job training requirements for a variety of reasons. Their mission is to compile a workforce of First Nations men and women that can be relied on to construct exceptional buildings with skill, speed and professionalism.

Decontie Construction is unique in that it is the first Algonquin-Anishinabe-owned general contracting company to be licensed by the Régie du bâtiment du Québec (RBQ) with a singular vision of advancing the interests and public awareness of the First Nations construction workforce. They hope that this award will improve public perception towards the variety of talents of First Nations people across the country and will inspire change in practices and relationships within the construction industry.

Congratulations to all the winners and finalists, and thank you to our judges, sponsors and everyone who supported the Awards by attending the Gala!

2018 Brownie Award Sponsors


Introducing CBN's Corporate Members
  • Geosyntec Consultants
  • Vertex Environmental


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