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Brantford Showcases its Brownfield Projects

Known as the Telephone City, Brantford may also become famous as one of the first municipalities in Canada to proudly showcase its brownfield projects.

Instead of hiding from its industrial past, the city is showcasing several brownfield projects and is encouraging residents and visitors to take the self-guided tour.  Eight projects in various stages of remediation or redevelopment are highlighted in the  tour.

Highlights of the the tour are the Greenwich Mohawk Site, Sydenham-Pear Site and Edward Gould Park.  The Greenwich Mohawk Site alone is over 50 acres and was remediated over the course of two years, starting in 2014.

 

 

 

The City is investing $5,000 per year to promote the tour and hopes to attract interested individuals, school groups, and others.  The tour itself provides participants with access to historical photos, newspaper articles and other project details through the tour website.

Users can access the Brownfields Discovery Tour online at Brantford.ca/BrownfieldsTour where they can follow along digitally or print a hard copy of the tour.

“The City of Brantford has become widely recognized as a leader for remediation, redevelopment and public education of brownfields,” said Amy Meloch, chair of the brownfields community advisory committee in an interview with the Brantford Expositor. “The tour is an exciting continuation of the work of the committee to raise awareness to both residents and visitors of the extensive work already accomplished in the city.”

The sites on the tour include those that are municipally and privately owned.  They are:

  • 186 Pearl St. – a 0.38-hectare site located in a residential area, this site was home to Brantford Emery Wheel Co. (1910-1920) and the Brantford Grinding Wheel Co. (1920-1939). Bay State Abrasives was involved in similar manufacturing operations there. The city removed an underground storage tank, removed the existing structures, cleaned the contaminated soil and planted sod at a cost of about $175,000. The property has been converted into a park.
  • 347 Greenwich St. and 22 and 66 Mohawk St. – Referred to collectively as the Greenwich Mohawk Brownfield Site, the companies and industry formerly housed on these properties are a significant part of the city’s history. The 27.9-acre 347 Greenwich property is the former site of Massey-Harris Co., established in 1891. It employed thousands of Brantford employees over the years. A 2005 fire destroyed most of the buildings and the city acquired the property in 2007.
  • 22 Mohawk St. – This 7.25-acre property has been home to Adam’s Wagon Co. and Brantford Coach and Body, later Canada Coach and Body, where military vehicles were manufactured during the Second World War. Later, Sternson Group was there.
  • 66 Mohawk St – The Brantford Plow Works, later Cockshutt Plow Co., was established here in 1877, making high-quality farm implements. The farm division was sold to White Farm Equipment in 1962. That company went bankrupt in 1985. The city acquired all three properties by 2007 and a two-year remediation started in 2014 at a cost of $40.5 million.
  • Sydenham Pearl site – Consists of two properties: 17 Sydenham St., the former Crown Electric, and 22 Sydenham, the former Domtar (Northern Globe) site. The sites served as the main locations for mass industry for almost a century. The city took over the properties 2004 and 2006. Remediation was done in 2015 and 2016 and a soil cap was installed. The site will be green space until next steps are explored by the city.
  • 85 Morrell St. – The city sold the property, once occupied by Harding Carpets Limited, to King and Benton Development Corporation, which cleaned and renovated the 10-acre property to include warehouses and offices for industrial use.
  • 168 Colborne St. West – This 11.5-acre property was the site of the former Stelco Fastners manufacturing plant. In 1999, it was purchased by King and Benton. Work is underway to redevelop the site for mixed uses, including multi-storey residential buildings.
  • 111 Sherwood St. – Home to Brantford Cordage Co. during the early 1900s. At its peak, the twine producer employed 700. It has remained active with a variety of commercial and industrial uses, including a brewery and fitness studio.
  • 232-254 Grand River Ave. – In 1891, this 4.87-acre site was developed as a cotton mill by Craven Cotton Mills Co. It then became Dominion Textiles Co. and then Penman’s Manufacturing Co. Textile manufacturing continued on the site for almost 100 years until it was sold to a land developer in 1984. It is now being remediated for a mix of affordable housing and market-rate townhouses.
  • 180 Dalhousie St. – The 0.52-acre site is a consolidation of four properties, which, over the years, housed various residential and commercial operations, including Castelli Bakery, which closed in 2011. Today, a four-storey student apartment building is there.

Greenwich-Mohawk Brownfield Site circa 2013

Unsafe Levels of Contamination found in Edmonton Neighbourhood

As reported in the Edmonton Journal, unsafe levels of hazardous chemicals were found in unoccupied land near the property that was previously occupied by a wood treatment plant site.  However, the analytical results from soil samples taken from residential properties in the vicinity of the plant found no hazardous chemicals in the top level of soil.

An Alberta Health official recently stated that soil testing has been completed in the Verte-Homesteader community — located near the former Domtar wood treatment facility.

Workers drill core samples in a contaminated parcel of land at the old wood treatment plant site in Edmonton, June 28, 2018. (Photo Credit: Kaiser/Postmedia)

“The results show no issues in the surface soil of any of the homeowners’ properties, but there were four areas of unoccupied land in the southeast corner of the neighbourhood where chemicals were found above health guidelines and that area is now being fenced off,” spokesman Cam Traynor said in an email.

A map showed two tests in the soon-to-be-fenced area exceeded human health guidelines for dioxins and furans.

In the spring, about 140 homeowners near the site of the former wood treatment plant at 44 Street and Yellowhead Trail were warned soil and groundwater in the area was contaminated with a list of potentially cancer-causing substances.

Officials said no contaminants were known to be in residential areas.

From 1924 to 1987, the land was the site of a plant in which toxic chemicals were used to treat railroad ties, poles, posts and lumber. Parts of the property are now a housing development.

The site’s current owners and developers, 1510837 Alberta Ltd. and Cherokee Canada Inc., were ordered to build a fence around the contaminated land to reduce potential health risks earlier this year.  Cherokee Canada did not immediately respond to a request from the Edmonton Journal.

Alberta Environment and Parks also directed the companies, including former owner Domtar, to take environmental samples and create plans to remove contaminants and conduct human health risk assessments. The orders also affected a greenbelt southeast of the site currently owned by the City of Edmonton.

The recently completed testing covered the top one-third of a metre of soil. Traynor said deeper soil testing in the broader area is ongoing. That work, along with a human health risk assessment, is expected to be completed this fall.

City of Welland, Ontario and Brownfields Development

As reported in the Welland Tribune, Welland, Ontario is on top of the heap when it comes to incentivizing its brownfield community improvement programs and has success stories it can share and build off of, a consultant told city council this week.

Luciana Piccioni, president of RCI Consulting, was before council Tuesday night to talk about Welland’s draft brownfield community improvement program, an 11-year-old document in need of a review and update.

Piccioni went through four programs the city currently has in place — an environmental site assessment grant program (ESA), brownfields tax assistance program (TAP), brownfields rehabilitation grant program (TIG), and brownfields planning and building permit fees refund program — and what needed to be updated and changed with each.

“Overall, with the exception of the rehabilitation grant program, Welland’s brownfield incentive programs are still competitive. Welland is one of only a few municipalities in Ontario that offers both a development charge reduction and a TIG for brownfield redevelopment projects,” Piccioni said.

He said it’s one thing that sets the municipality apart from others in the province.

Former Atlas Steel Plant in Welland Ontario

As RCI began to update the brownfield community improvement programs, a half-dozen key stakeholders in the development industry and brownfield developers were invited to a workshop.

“That went very well … and we brought back revisions to them and they were very supportive.”

Piccioni said the stakeholders had positive responses about applying for incentive programs and said city staff were recognized as being responsive and good to work with.

The stakeholders also said the city has an open for business and co-operative mindset, but suggested increasing dedicated city staff resources to help speed up the application process.

Comments about Niagara Region with respect to the handling of brownfield and other CIP incentive programs applications were less than positive, Piccioni told council.

Stakeholders also suggested the city increase its flexibility when it comes to interpreting program requirements, allowing for unique situations to be looked at and evaluated for possible inclusion.

It was also suggested the city consider expanding and enhancing the marketing of off of the incentive programs, success stories and long-term benefits.

“You’re starting to have those success stories now,” Piccioni said, adding he expected to have a final draft ready for council to see in April.

Council heard some of the changes being made to the plans included making it harder for people just trying to get financing for a brownfield property with no intention of developing it.

Piccioni said developers would be asked to provide a letter of intent.

“It would prove to us that they intend to redevelop the property. There would be just enough hoops to discourage the pretenders and encourage the intenders.”

As of March 2017, there were 17 applications submitted for ESA grants, the TIG and rehabilitation grants, with 15 approved, two not approved and two abandoned. The total grant amount requested was roughly $560,000.

Growing Interest in Brownfield Redevelopment in Windsor

As reported in the Windsor Star, it has taken almost seven years for a municipal brownfields development incentive program to take hold in the City of Windsor, immediately across the Detroit River from the City of Detroit.

In the last several months, applications to the Brownfield Redevelopment Community Improvement (CIP) Plan have been steadily streaming in — seeking grants to help fund feasibility and soil studies, and then even more money to help pay for the pricey cleanup.

If they become realities, these developments could add up to hundreds of new residences on: the former GM Trim site on Lauzon Road; a collection of former industrial properties between Walkerville and Ford City; and most recently a large property near Tecumseh Road and Howard Avenue that for 50 years was the home of Auto Specialties, a manufacturer of malleable castings and automotive jacks for the auto industry.

Greg Atkinson, a senior planner with the city who co-ordinates the Brownfields CIP program, said it’s “awesome news” that investors are finally taking advantage of this “great incentive package.”  The reason they’re jumping aboard now, he said, is that Windsor’s land prices have risen and residential vacancy rates have declined to the point where developing these cheaper brownfield properties now make financial sense.

“But without the incentives I don’t think they would be redeveloped,” Atkinson said. “With them, they’re pushed into that realm of viability, and that’s what we’re starting to see.”

Almost 140 sites across the city have been identified as brownfield properties, covering 559 acres.

“Historically, there has been little interest in redeveloping brownfield sites due to the uncertainty surrounding the extent of contamination and the potential cost of cleanup,” says a city report that goes to the city’s planning, heritage and economic development standing committee Monday. It says one redeveloped brownfield acre saves 4.5 acres of farmland on a city’s outskirts from being developed, and that for every dollar invested in brownfield redevelopment, $3.80 is invested in the community.

An illustration cut out from an unknown trade publication/manual, circa 1940, shows the Auto Specialties Manufacturing Company (Canada) located near the northeast corner of Tecumseh Road and Howard Avenue. The plant made malleable castings for the automotive industry and also automotive jacks. Photo courtesy of the University of Windsor, Leddy Library. UNIVERSITY OF WINDSOR / WINDSOR STAR

“It’s great to see owners and developers coming forward and saying ‘We’d like to tap into this fund because we’re interested in redeveloping this site,” Mayor Drew Dilkens said of the recent flow of applications. “The more of these 140 properties we can activate, the better it will be for all of us in the City of Windsor because it provides more taxes and lowers everyone’s share.”

The most recent application is from THMC Windsor, for a $7,000 grant to pay half the cost of a feasibility study on the viability of redeveloping part of the massive parking lot behind the medical buildings at Howard and Tecumseh into a residential project. Auto Specialties operated on the 12.5-acre site from the 1920s to the 1970s.

The next grant THMC could apply for provides up to $15,000 to cover half the cost of soil and groundwater testing for possible contamination. Then if the owner decides to go ahead with cleanup, the Brownfield Rehabilitation Program compensates for the cleanup costs by effectively freezing taxes where they are (versus what they would rise to when the site’s redeveloped) for the first 10 years. There’s even a big break on development fees.

“It really does cover a lot of costs,” Atkinson said of the program.

Of the 15 applications to the program since 2010, 13 have come in the last 22 months. Grants have totalled $1.9 million, leveraging $16.9 million in private sector investment, according to the city.

The earliest and most prominent success happened at a former gas station property at Dougall Avenue and West Grand Boulevard, which was turned into a small commercial development with the help of $67,000 in city grants. The former Wickes bumper plant — now run as a big UHaul operation, also was rejuvenated thanks to $1.5 million worth of grants. A former gas station at Riverside Drive and Marentette Avenue has been cleaned up and readied for redevelopment. And earlier this year, the Sood family received study grants to redevelop the former Seagrave fire truck plant property on Walker Road into about 12 townhouses and turn 17 acres of largely vacant industrial land south of Edna Street, west of St. Luke Road and north of Richmond Street into between 200 and 250 residential units.

On Monday night, council approved grants totalling $32,000 to help pay for three feasibility and environmental studies costing $97,000 for the 60-acre former GM Trim site. The current owner Farhi Holdings has plans to redevelop the site into a commercial-residential project with about 240 residential units. 

Dilkens said there’s clearly a demand for residential development in the east side of the city where Farhi’s land is located, and replacing the derelict site with a new housing project would benefit the entire area.

But Atkinson cautioned that not all these projects end up being developed. “Sometimes, they’ll determine it’s not feasible, there’s no demand for what they’re thinking of, or they might do the sampling and find out it costs too much to clean up.”

The Walker Power Building in Windsor, Ont., summer 2015