Don't have an account? Create one now

2016 FCM Sustainable Communities Awards — Brownfields Project

WINNER: Region of Waterloo, ON

Brownfield redevelopment project revives a central neighbourhood

Working with a visionary developer, the Region of Waterloo and the City of Kitchener helped transform an industrial brownfield site in Kitchener's downtown into showcase offices, attracting tenants such as Google and reviving a central neighbourhood. 

Read the case study below to learn about project highlights, as well as the challenges and lessons learned that can help your community in planning similar projects.

Breithaupt Block project on former brownfield site, Region of Waterloo, ON, 2016 Sustainable Communities Award winner

About the project

Municipal population Project duration Total project value
569,000 2009–2015

Regional Municipality of Waterloo and City of Kitchener contribution: $1,559,993

Perimeter Development Corporation investment: $54M

The Region of Waterloo and the City of Kitchener, ON, worked closely with the Perimeter Development Corporation to turn an abandoned industrial block near its downtown into a technology-oriented office space. The project is bringing new jobs and life to a central neighbourhood.

The Breithaupt Block is located in Kitchener's city core close to a planned transit hub. The site, vacant since 2007, had century-old buildings with great renovation potential. However, both soil and groundwater on the site were contaminated with industrial pollutants including hydrocarbons, zinc and benzene. Perimeter bought the block in 2009, planning to transform it into high-quality office space. The city and region supported the development with grants to help cover environmental assessment and site remediation costs.

The development includes beautifully renovated historic brick and beam buildings and an energy- and water-efficient LEED® Gold addition. The project, which has attracted tech-focused tenants including Google, is generating job opportunities downtown and sparking new growth in the surrounding neighbourhood.

 

 Transcript

"This is the kind of thing that can happen when you redevelop brownfield sites, when you bring transportation and transit together, and create a livable, economically viable centre core part of the city."
Regional Chair Ken Seiling

Office space with chair and glass walls at Breithaupt Block, Kitchener, ON

Green space, lawn and pedestrian walkways with buildings at Breithaupt Block, Kitchener, ON

Project Highlights

Results

Environmental Economic Social
  • Remediated contaminated site, reducing possible health risks

  • Increased energy, water efficiency with LEED Gold component

  • Reduced GHG emissions by promoting active transportation, discouraging use of cars

  • Reduces sprawl, increases density, makes better use of existing infrastructure

  • Expanded business tax base

  • Developed office space tailored to start-up businesses

  • Increased employment opportunities in downtown

  • Produced economic spin-off in local service industry

  • Preserved character and architectural heritage of the site

  • Introduced green space, pedestrian links between neighbourhood and transit hub

  • Created attractive community destination in residential neighbourhood

  • Contributed to community health and wellbeing

Challenges

  • The Breithaupt Block needed a developer with vision. It was a challenging industrial site with vacant buildings and ponds of process water, but its location in a central neighbourhood and adjacent to a planned transit hub meant it could be pivotal for the city's redevelopment.

  • The first hurdle for the project was getting rid of heavy industrial machinery left on site by the previous owner. The developer found a recycling company that cleared the site in exchange for the value of the recycled material.

  • Coordinating the Breithaupt development with the region's light rail transit plans has been demanding, involving regular contact with representatives from Kitchener's planning department, two Region of Waterloo departments and the consortium building the transit system.

Lessons learned

  • Designate a single contact person from the municipality and ensure that there is regular communication between the developer and municipal staff.

  • Try to develop realistic expectations and timelines; brownfield redevelopment almost always takes more time and more money than you expect.

  • Be patient. Remediation takes time. Redevelopment takes time and reimbursing eligible expenses takes time.

  • Share your vision with the developer and try to ensure that all parties have the same understanding. Sharing a vision and philosophy for brownfield redevelopment goes a long way toward building trust and collaboration on a project.

  • Offer tax incentives for brownfield projects. Developers are more likely to tackle site remediation if they can recover a portion of the costs. It may also help them to negotiate project financing.

Partners and collaborators Project planning documents Related reading

Regional Municipality of Waterloo

City of Kitchener

Perimeter Development Corporation

Regional Official Plan

City of Kitchener Official Plan - Parts B,C,D, & E

Region of Waterloo Brownfield Financial Incentive Programs

City of Kitchener Community Improvement Plans

Region of Waterloo Central Transit Corridor's Community Building Strategy

Region of Waterloo Reurbanization Community Improvement Plan

Region of Waterloo "Big Shift" Toolbox for planning and managing growth in Waterloo Region

City of Kitchener's Growth Management Strategy

GMF funding opportunities for brownfields initiatives

GMF brownfields resources

Brownfields - best practices

FCM Leadership in Brownfield Renewal peer learing program

Case study - City of Langley, BC, winner of a 2015 FCM Sustainable Communities Award (brownfields category)

More information

Peter Ellis, Planning, Development and Legislative Services
Region of Waterloo, Ontario
T. 519-575-4500 ext. 3112

Jeca Glor-Bell
Advisor, Knowledge Services, FCM
T. 613-907-6393

Page Updated: 25/04/2016