Surrey Business News
Transforming Former Industrial Sites into Vibrant New Neighbourhoods an Opportunity to Boost Economic Recovery
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.