Surrey Business News

Trans­form­ing For­mer In­dus­trial Sites into Vi­brant New Neigh­bour­hoods an Op­por­tu­nity to Boost Eco­nomic Re­cov­ery

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In Canada, for every $1 that’s been in­vested in public in­fra­struc­ture, it gen­er­ates $3.83 re­turn on in­vest­ment. With that comes job cre­ation and pri­vate sec­tor in­vest­ment. This is a piv­otal op­por­tu­nity to drive eco­nomic re­cov­ery and trans­form our cities. It starts with in­vest­ments in re­silient, sus­tain­able in­fra­struc­ture and city-build­ing.

With COVID-19 re­stric­tions slowly be­ing lifted in BC, it is time for the new nor­mal. But what ex­actly is the new nor­mal? In the ur­ban de­vel­op­ment sec­tor, it could mean trans­form­ing un­der­uti­lized, for­mer in­dus­trial land across the prov­ince into in­clu­sive, af­ford­able, cli­matepos­i­tive com­mu­ni­ties for gen­er­a­tions to come.

While the eco­nomic fall­out is forc­ing fed­eral and provin­cial gov­ern­ments to de­velop poli­cies for stim­u­lat­ing the econ­omy, re­vi­tal­iza­tion of our cities on un­der­uti­lized lands is a tried and true method to boost our econ­omy and pro­vide trans­for­ma­tive ben­e­fits to our cities and qual­ity of life. Many cities have suc­cess­fully re­de­vel­oped large, for­mer in­dus­trial lands in prime lo­ca­tions, in­clud­ing Hud­son Yards in New York City, Porto Nuova in Mi­lan and Ca­nary Wharf in Lon­don, cre­at­ing com­plete, new wa­ter­front com­mu­ni­ties with strong eco­nomic im­pacts.

In BC, this would mean trans­form­ing con­tam­i­nated, post-in­dus­trial sites, also known as brown­fields, into vi­brant, sus­tain­able, tran­sit-ori­ented, walk­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties where we can live, work and play. All while cre­at­ing large-scale eco­nomic growth and help­ing to solve the af­ford­able hous­ing cri­sis we’ve been deal­ing with in BC much longer than COVID-19.

We cur­rently have more than 6,000 reg­is­tered brown­field sites in BC with ac­tive po­ten­tial for rede­vel­op­ment sit­ting derelict and un­der­uti­lized. There is plenty of ev­i­dence to sup­port why the prov­ince and cities should fo­cus on re­vi­tal­iza­tion of un­der­uti­lized post-in­dus­trial lands as a proven strat­egy for eco­nomic re­cov­ery. We can look to re­vi­tal­iza­tion projects on for­mer in­dus­trial wa­ter­front lands, like the West Don Lands in Toronto (pic­ture above) to see huge eco­nomic spinoffs, among them: job cre­ation, in­creased and di­ver­si­fied tax base, un­locked de­vel­op­ment po­ten­tial and new rev­enue op­por­tu­ni­ties for both the public and pri­vate sec­tor. Gov­ern­ment in­vest­ment in West

Don Lands has not only de­liv­ered ex­cep­tional, cli­mate-pos­i­tive wa­ter­front com­mu­ni­ties to Toronto, but it has more than dou­bled the value of gov­ern­ment in­vest­ments, gen­er­at­ing 16,200 years of em­ploy­ment, $3.2 bil­lion in eco­nomic out­put to the econ­omy and di­rect­ing more than $620 mil­lion in rev­enue back to gov­ern­ment.

These sta­tis­tics are not Toron­to­cen­tric. Fur­ther data shows that across US cities, every $1 of public­sec­tor in­vest­ment into re­vi­tal­iza­tion ef­forts at­tracts $20 in pri­vate-sec­tor in­vest­ment, as well as gen­er­at­ing sig­nif­i­cant job growth.

Here in BC, some ex­am­ples of re­vi­tal­iza­tion on for­mer in­dus­trial wa­ter­front lands in­clude Olympic Vil­lage, River District and Dock­side Green. These projects, how­ever, fo­cused pri­mar­ily on hous­ing, parks and ameni­ties, less on the jobs needed to build com­plete com­mu­ni­ties.

An­other new, BC ex­am­ple is the up­com­ing Mis­sion Wa­ter­front, a 300acre un­der­uti­lized for­mer in­dus­trial site and the largest un­de­vel­oped wa­ter­front in the Lower Main­land. Fol­low­ing the model of the West Don Lands and other glob­ally suc­cess­ful wa­ter­front re­vi­tal­iza­tion ini­tia­tives, Mis­sion’s wa­ter­front will in­clude a mix of hous­ing op­tions for all in­come lev­els, sig­nif­i­cant com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial em­ploy­ment space, wo­ven to­gether with new parks, wa­ter­front prom­e­nades and com­mu­nity spa­ces in a se­ries of walk­a­ble wa­ter­front com­mu­ni­ties con­nected by tran­sit to the rest of the re­gion.

Van­cou­ver, Sur­rey and BC politi­cians, plan­ners, ar­chi­tects and de­vel­op­ers take note: Rein­vest­ing in un­der­uti­lized land cre­ates an op­por­tu­nity to reimag­ine strate­gic parts of our cities into glob­ally lead­ing ex­am­ples of more sus­tain­able, af­ford­able, con­nected and in­clu­sive com­mu­ni­ties. The on­go­ing im­pact of the pan­demic has am­pli­fied the grow­ing calls for re­silient cities that can ef­fec­tively op­er­ate dur­ing times of cri­sis. And this means gov­ern­ments must take the lead and share in the cost of en­vi­ron­men­tal clean-up, flood pro­tec­tion, plan­ning, and other in­cen­tives nec­es­sary to un­lock these crit­i­cal re­vi­tal­iza­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties. We have a pow­er­ful and un­par­al­leled op­por­tu­nity in BC to rein­vest, re­build and reimag­ine these un­der­uti­lized sites into places where we can all thrive for gen­er­a­tions to come while we re­build our econ­omy.

Carla Guer­rera is CEO of Pur­pose Driven De­vel­op­ment and Plan­ning, for­mer project man­ager for the West Don Lands rede­vel­op­ment in Toronto, the lead con­sul­tant on the Mis­sion Wa­ter­front re­vi­tal­iza­tion project, and cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for Fraser River Wa­ter­front Re­vi­tal­iza­tion in the South Fraser Eco­nomic Re­gion.

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