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2014 Brownfields

Town of Smithers, British Columbia

Main Street Smithers: Brownfield to Public Squares

Population:  Project duration:  Total project value:
5,500 2012-2013 $687,765

Transcript

To celebrate its first 100 years, the Town of Smithers chose a project that will improve its environment, economy and social life for the next 100 years. For this centennial legacy project, Smithers bought an abandoned gas station site on its main street, remediated the lot, and built a new town square. The newly created Bovill Square incorporates a permanent stage, which was a focal point for centennial celebrations in 2013 and will be the town's premier location for civic and cultural events for years to come.

Motivated by the town's vision, the Rotary Club spearheaded development of a second square a few blocks away. The unnamed square is also a former gas station, leased from Husky Oil. The second site was not remediated but has also been transformed into an attractive gathering and performance space with benches and brick paving.

The two projects have invigorated the town's already vibrant shopping district with frequent events drawing people downtown.

Results

Environmental Economic Social
  • Purchase and remediation of a contaminated downtown gas station site

  • Catalyst for community to press for future remediation projects

  • More events, late-night shopping and increased pedestrian traffic downtown

  • Greater downtown investment and interest in redeveloping other brownfield sites

  • New public squares provide space for artists, civic events, vendors and a farmers' market

  • Public amenities have sparked more downtown activity

Challenges

  • Resources were a challenge for a large project in a small town. Council developed the vision, but needed to tap into energy from the community to execute the project.
  • The Bovill Square remediation was demanding, with more buried oil tanks on the site than anticipated. The tanks and more than 100 truckloads of soil had to be excavated and removed.

Lessons learned

  • Find a council or community champion to point the way forward and keep the project moving.
  • Keep communication channels open. This legacy project involved many volunteers and it was essential to engage the community and maintain open communications between council, community groups and the public.
  • Involve professionals in planning. The landscaping contractor had the skills and experience to help inform the public about what was incorporated in the plan, and how the pieces would fit together.   
Page Updated: 08/07/2014