2023 Finalists

Founded in 2001 by the Canadian Urban Institute, the Brownie Awards recognize the innovative efforts of professionals who rehabilitate sites that were once contaminated, under-utilized, and undeveloped by remaking them into productive residential and commercial projects that contribute to the growth of healthy communities across Canada.

As an annual celebration recognizing excellence in the remediation and redevelopment of brownfield sites across Canada, the Brownie Awards are presented proudly in partnership by the Canadian Brownfields Network and Actual Media.

This year a historic number of nominations were received, including a remarkable variety of projects and programs, from smaller-scale community initiatives to once-in-a-generation infrastructure developments. Here’s a good look at the outstanding achievements of the well-deserving finalists for the 2023 Brownie Awards.


Legislation, Policy and Program Initiatives

Location: Calgary, Alberta

The Domestic Use Aquifer (DUA) as defined in Alberta is often an inoperable pathway in municipal settings that was historically costly to assess and potentially eliminate which in turn hindered the progress of remediating contaminated sites. In 2022, Alberta published a “Guide to Excluding the Domestic Use Aquifer based on Municipal Bylaws,” which enables the elimination of the DUA pathway for sites located within a municipality with a bylaw prohibiting the installation and use of potable groundwater supply wells.

Now with the Guide in effect, the elimination of a non-operable DUA pathway serves as an enabling step to making urban contaminated site remediation projects more feasible. Calgary is the first and only municipality in Alberta to adopt this policy to date and has developed a streamlined process for applicants to meet the Municipal Bylaw Confirmation requirement. This will result in more brownfield sites located in the City of Calgary progressing through final remediation closure and ultimately being repurposed to a productive use. The City of Calgary’s process provides an example framework for other municipalities to follow.

Project Team: Alberta Environment and Protected Areas, City of Calgary, City of Edmonton, Municipalities and Rural Municipalities of Alberta, and Canadian Fuels Association.


Location: Kingston, Ontario

Responsible management of excess soils generated from municipal capital projects prevents the creation of new brownfield lands when landowners knowingly or unknowingly accept contaminated soils as “clean fill” and allows for beneficial re-use of non-pristine soils on properties with less sensitive uses. The program and infrastructure that Kingston has implemented provides contractors and engineers with an example of how to manage soils from their projects so that brownfield remediation costs can be reduced and so that projects don’t create additional soil quality issues elsewhere.

Kingston’s Municipal Excess Soil Management Program provides an example to others of how municipalities and remediation specialists can implement their own programs to comply with emerging soil management regulations, control brownfield costs and create value through beneficial soil reuse and avoidance of excessive landfill cost. The alignment of municipal excess soil management with brownfield redevelopment strategy provides a novel response to new soil regulation in Ontario that enables cost control for municipal property and infrastructure projects that are challenged by brownfield issues.

Project Team: Environment Department, Public Works Department, Engineering Department, Utilities Kingston, Real Estate and Employment Land Sales.


Location: Ontario

QPCO is a volunteer-based organization administered by the Ontario Environment Industry Association (ONEIA) to provide a forum for Qualified Persons (QPs) to congregate and discuss common issues, and to educate themselves through discussion, peer to peer communications, webinars, and presentations. QPCO is working with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks to continue to improve the Records of Site Condition (RSC) process in Ontario (through Reg. 153/04) for the betterment of the brownfield industry through open dialogue and understanding of the process to attain time certainty and costs for the leaders of brownfield redevelopment.

Through the formulation of QPCO, there is a focused avenue for improvement of QP processes, guidance documentation and strong working relationships with the MECP with the community of QPs in Ontario. 2023 was a big year for QPCO as Mission and Vision statements were formulated as well as establishing an internal governance structure to carry QPCO beyond the few volunteers that have taken QPCO from its concept and inception. This is a new model for working through delays and improvements to provide industry support.

Project Team: QPCO Leadership Volunteers; ONEIA Board of Directors and Operations Staff; and, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks Environmental Permissions (Brownfields).

Location: Hamilton, Ontario

The ERASE Community Improvement Plan (CIP) and the Brownfield Office of the City of Hamilton’s Economic Development Division are part of a long-standing commitment by the city to prioritize and support the remediation and redevelopment of vacant, derelict or under-utilized environmentally contaminated properties in the city. The ERASE CIP enables the city to provide financial assistance programs, including cost-sharing grants for environmental investigations, tax-increment based grants, tax cancellation and/or low-interest loans that level the playing field such that contaminated properties can be considered by property owners and investors for redevelopment on an equal footing, financial and otherwise, as non-contaminated properties.

These efforts ensure that brownfields are not overlooked for easier development prospects in agricultural greenfield lands, that brownfields can support city goals and policies with respect to the directing of population and employment growth, reduce urban sprawl and its associated costs and improving the overall state of the environment in Hamilton. The city’s review served as an opportunity to evaluate the ERASE CIP and its programs to ensure they were continuing to meet goals for brownfield redevelopment.

Project Team: City of Hamilton


Sustainable Remediation & Technological Innovation

Location: Oakville, Ontario

Following a significant spill event there is a tendency to rush towards immediate solutions without considering the long-term sustainability of remediation efforts. This rush can lead to inadequate understanding of subsurface conditions and disregard for other natural features. In 2010, a substantial release of approximately 90,000 liters of gasoline occurred in a sensitive creek valley near a major urban centre in Ontario. This site holds significant ecological value and classified as an area of natural and scientific interest.

This project shifted the paradigm of conventional thinking surrounding environmental clean-up. Rather than swiftly adopting a costly solution that could harm the local ecosystem and require decades for recovery, the project team embraced a multifaceted, innovative, and cost-effective remediation strategy. This included: conducting surgical excavations to minimize excavation impact; deploying sustainable technologies like phytoremediation, enhanced bioremediation, and monitored natural attenuation; and, completing a Community Based Risk Assessment which considered the ecological, residential, and recreational users. These innovations worked in harmony to contribute to overall site restoration while reducing negative impacts to the sensitive ecosystem and recreational users.

Project Team: Stantec Consulting Ltd; Trans-Northern Pipelines Inc.; and, Stamnik Industrial Inc.

Location: Slate Islands, Ontario

The Slate Islands are a remote archipelago nestled in the protected waters of the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area (LSNMCA). Containing the remnants of Indigenous settlements, former timber operations, and with speculation that the central islands are meteorite remains, the Islands are unique. Remote projects encounter unique challenges that are compounded when working on an island in Lake Superior: inclement weather, remote location, lack of infrastructure, rugged geography, unpredictable lake conditions, sparse populations, species-at-risk, etc.

Combining custom engineered features with a low-impact remediation plan, this project epitomized a textbook project even when little about the project was close to standard. The Slate Islands remediation set a new standard for remote projects of its kind in the following ways: original approach to remote site mobilization; excavation and off-site disposal of contaminated soil; screened soils from to reduce overall tonnage and save on disposal and transportation costs; bags of soils were slung with a helicopter to barge accessible sites; removal of diesel generators; and, reusing felled trees to promote reforestation.

Project Team: Englobe Corp; McKeil Marine; Haveman Brothers; Lakehead Technical Diving; and, Wilderness Helicopters.

Location: Lazo (Comox), British Columbia

SLR Consulting (Canada) developed an innovative remediation program on behalf of Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) and the Department of National Defence (DND) to address risks from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination related to the use of aqueous film forming foam at the firefighting training area at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Comox. The project is the largest full-scale implementation of PFAS amendment in Canada and applied novel PFAS soil remediation methods (thermal treatment and amendment/stabilization).

The project team’s approach minimized the volume of soil managed offsite, favouring stabilizing to reuse and reduce costs and environmental impacts. SLR developed detailed proficiency metrics for both treatment methods. The project also led to the reinstatement of CFB Comox’s training facility. The design concept was innovative as there are no standard designs for firefighting training areas and it included specialised storm water management features to mitigate environmental risks related to potential future foam releases during training.

Project Team: SLR Consulting (Canada) Ltd; Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC); Department of National Defence (DND); QM Environmental; and, SNC Lavalin

Location: Toronto, Ontario

The PLFPEI provides a comprehensive plan for flood protection in downtown Toronto. The extensive redevelopment in this area has provided Accuworx the opportunity to design, construct and operate the largest Temporary Water Treatment System (TWTS) in Ontario. Throughout the Port Lands, ground and surface water is heavily impacted with organic and inorganic compounds such as metals, BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene), VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and PAHs (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons).

This project is an example of progressive thinking in water treatment. Key achievements include the following: waste reduction through media regeneration, efficient water use through reuse in dust suppression and soil remediation, as well as a reduced energy footprint. Embracing innovative and efficient practices has also lea to cost savings over time. By minimizing waste disposal, conserving water, and optimizing energy use, these efforts have provided economic, environmental, and social benefits. This comprehensive approach highlights how water treatment can be more than a technical process— it can be a strategic means of promoting a healthier environment and reducing resource consumption.

Project Team: Accuworx Inc.; GFL Environmental; EllisDon; ALS Consulting (Canada) Ltd.; and, Waterfront Toronto.



Financing, Risk Management and Partnerships

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba

Unique remediation and risk management strategies were used for the brownfield redevelopment of this former lead smelter and battery recycling facility, North West Smelting and Refining, an orphaned designated contaminated site. The goal was to redevelop the site and transform it from an impacted, non-productive former industrial site, into a commercial site with beneficial reuse. Prior to remedial site works, it was considered one of Manitoba’s top contaminated sites.

To bring the abandoned, contaminated property into beneficial reuse, work was conducted in combination with the Province of Manitoba, through the Orphaned Sites Program, and Thompson Dorfman Sweatman LLP. The site remediation included risk management and innovative design proving to be a cost effective and practical means of remediation. This project is a model for addressing orphaned properties with public private partnerships to successfully complete the restoration of an abandoned property. The ROI on the public funding was achieved through selling the property.

Project Team: Dillon Consulting Limited; Manitoba Environment and Climate; Thompson Dorfman Sweatman LLP; Tervita Corporation; and, Colliers International.

Location: Windsor, Ontario

The Gordie Howe International Bridge project is a once-in-a-generation $5.7 billion public- private partnership (P3) which embodies the very essence of brownfield redevelopment by transforming multiple Canadian brownfield sites into a symbol of progress, sustainability, and cross-border cooperation. The project is an engineering marvel that will be the longest cable stay bridge in North America, at 853 metres in length, with a tower height of 220 metres. The project leveraged a P3 model, bringing together strengths and resources of both public and private sectors.

This innovative financing approach stimulated investment, but also shared risks, responsibilities, and rewards among partners. Through the community benefits plan, the project directly invested in local communities, supporting workforce development, and neighborhood improvements. The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) fostered collaborative partnerships with key stakeholders, including government agencies, private entities, First Nations, and community organizations which allowed for the sharing of expertise, resources, and best practices. Through the P3 model, costs and risks associated with the remedial activities and encountered unknown underground obstructions were shared between the partners.

Project Team: Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) and consultants (Parsons, WSP, GHD and Jacobs); Clayton Sereres (WDBA Senior Director, Environmental); Bridging North America (BNA); and, Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and consultant (Mannik & Smith Group).

Location: Grimsby, Ontario

The former Biggar Sewage Lagoons were constructed in the early 1960s and operated by Niagara Region until the year 2000. The 29-acre property had four small aeriation ponds, one of which belong to the Department of National Defence (DND), and the other 20 acres belong to the Region. Today the property is known as the Grimsby Wetlands, a project of the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club (HNC).

In 2000, the lagoons became redundant, so the HNC put forward a proposal to the Region and DND to change their decommissioning plans, allow for their bioremediation and for the entire area to be managed as a publicly accessible natural restoration area. The proposal commenced five years of negotiations and in 2005 the decision was made to leave two of the lagoons in situ and the other lands available for restoration. In 2016 the HNC was finally provided with permission from the Niagara Region to carry out habitat enhancement and nature interpretive projects on the Region’s lands. Since then, the Club has worked diligently and has won multiple environmental awards.

Project Team: Hamilton Naturalists’ Club; Niagara Region; Town of Grimsby; Friends of the Grimsby Wetlands; and, Grimsby & District Lions Club.



Vision of Alternative Benefits to Brownfield Remediation

Location: Toronto, Ontario

This former quarry site in Toronto underwent significant community consultation and visioning exercises to guide its revitalization from a vacant fill site to a sustainable and inclusive community called Birchley Park. Located close to the Victoria Park subway station and a forthcoming new entrance to existing Danforth GO Station.

Birchley Park is a vibrant mixed-use community with new public streets, over 5.8 acres of public park, a range of housing options, retail space, and a potential elementary school. The site will deliver over 1,050 residential units in multiple development blocks with a variety of housing types and tenures, including a block of land to be conveyed to an affordable housing provider. The first phase will implement a geoexchange system (resulting in a 62.3 per cent reduction of carbon emissions annually compared to traditional mechanical systems) and is planned to achieve LEED certification. Collaborating with Evergreen Canada, a youth-focused consultation program was initiated with the local elementary school, engaging students to recommend how the new public park could be programmed.

Project Team: DiamondKilmer; EQ Building Performance; Enwave, CreateTO; Habitat for Humanity; and, Evergreen.

Location: Ottawa, Ontario

Dream LeBreton is a 2.5-acre development within LeBreton Flats, a brownfield site near downtown Ottawa with a legacy of former industrial uses. Of the 608 rental units, 41 per cent will be offered as affordable units, below market rates and earmarked for five key communities in need: Indigenous communities; women and children; immigrants/newcomers; veterans; and adults with cognitive disabilities.

The design features a high-performance building envelope, photovoltaic solar panels, and a closed loop system that recovers energy from an adjacent combined sewer. This will provide 100 per cent of the building’s heating and cooling needs with zero GHG emissions.  In addition, natural plantings and non-toxic, regionally sourced materials will be used throughout the design, helping further distinguish the community’s sustainability approach. Once complete, the community will be operationally net-zero carbon, LEED Gold Certified, and One Planet Living accredited.

Project Team: Client Dream Unlimited; Multi-Faith Housing; Perkins&Will and KPMB Architects, supported by Two Row Architects; PFS Studio; and, EllisDon.

Location: Taber, Alberta

A portion of Alberta’s thousands of un-reclaimed “brownfield” oil & gas sites could be repurposed as “brightfields” with small-scale solar installations re-using disturbed land and existing infrastructure such as access roads and grid tie-ins.

The RenuWell Project represents a successful collaboration between a municipality, irrigation co-operative and the private and non-profit sectors to transform orphan oil & gas brownfield liabilities into community solar generation assets, supporting grid decarbonization, conserving high value land and generating cost savings through re-use of infrastructure. As a result of extensive engagement and support from landowners, regulators, and other stakeholders, the RenuWell project partners successfully deployed two pilots that are exceeding performance expectations and concurrently brought about regulatory change, built local capacity, facilitated cross-sector collaboration and developed a transferable framework and resources for repurposing sites to share with communities and municipalities.

Project Team: Municipal District of Taber; Irrigation Canal Power Co-operative Ltd. (IRRICAN); Elemental Energy (Alberta 2003) Inc./RenuWell Energy Solutions Inc.; SkyFire Energy Inc.; and, Iron & Earth.


Redevelopment at the Local, Site Scale

Location: Kitchener, Ontario

This former Electrohome site has been abandoned and vacant by the owner for over 30 years. The site building had fallen into a concerning state and toxic contaminants were known to be present in the soils and groundwater. Residents reached out to the City Councillor for support and the city initiated the tax sale process. MECP also issued an Order in 2007 against the former owner to no avail. Shannondale Developments purchased the property in 2019. Financial incentives offered by both the Region and the City could be accessed by Shannondale to facilitate the redevelopment. The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) revised the Order associated with the site to split on-site and off-site liabilities, thus allowing Shannondale to step cleanly into the RSC process with the intention of repurposing the site into a mixed-used property with residential and retail space.

Accessing policy initiatives, including Waterloo Development Charge exemption for brownfield sites, Kitchener brownfield council approved tax increment grant, and MECP tools for separating liabilities associated with on- and off-site impacts:

  • Collaborating with the City on the concept developed for the site via community engagement, and further engaging in public consultation;
  • Seeking and securing options for recycling hazardous and non-hazardous site soils to facilitate sustainable beneficial reuse options, versus disposal in landfills; and
  • Promoting education and learning associated with contaminated site redevelopment through a case study with the University of Western Ontario’s Ivey Business School.

Project Team: Shannondale Developments; City of Kitchener; Region of Waterloo; Stantec Consulting Ltd.; and, QM Environmental.

Location: Toronto, Ontario

Located in one of Toronto’s most culturally diverse and rapidly growing neighbourhoods, the North East Scarborough Community Recreation & Child Care Centre is a multi-use cultural hub designed to meet demand for more social and recreational programming. Sited on a small parcel of existing park space, once old industrial land, a significant amount of contaminated soil was excavated and removed to accommodate the new community centre, which includes a pool, gym, childcare and multipurpose spaces; a surface parking lot; and a new outdoor park featuring a playground, splash pad, soccer field, skate park, basketball court and community picnic space.

This project transforms underused park space into an exemplary, inclusive community hub. It is a Canada Green Building Council (CAGBC) Design certified Net Zero Carbon and targeting Net Zero Energy. The building’s program evolved to include a previously omitted aquatic centre, and an enlarged gymnasium to accommodate cricket as requested by the community’s predominantly South Asian population. Opening summer 2025, the Centre will be recognized as a leading example of how underutilized spaces can be regenerated into rich hubs for community.

Project Team: Perkins & Will; RJC; Smith + Andersen; PMA Landscape; and Husson Engineering.

Location: Edmonton, Alberta

There are hundreds of abandoned oil & gas well-sites within the City of Edmonton. Development constraints, safety considerations, and soil or groundwater contamination impact the ability for these areas to be redeveloped in the future. This project provides an example of the safe clean up and subsequent redevelopment of a former oil and gas wellsite that would have otherwise sat fenced, abandoned, and underdeveloped for decades.

The project team developed Site Specific environmental guidelines for petroleum hydrocarbons, salts, metals, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that reduced the overall contaminated area by 70 per cent. In consultation with regulators, the City of Edmonton and stakeholders a remedial plan was approved by the regulators to excavate impacted material and transport the material to another related oil and gas site and then subsequent treatment and disposal of the material. The developer paid for the assessment and remedial work and the oil & gas operator retained ownership of the contamination, who currently is successfully remediating the material.

Project Team: Trace Associates Inc., The Alberta Energy Regulator; Alberta Environment and Protected Areas; The City of Edmonton; Confidential Oil and Gas Company; and, Confidential Developer.


Redevelopment at the community scale

Location: Mission, British Columbia

This ambitious project aims to transform the brownfield site into a thriving waterfront community. The 300-acre site, the largest undeveloped urban waterfront area in the Lower Mainland, faces challenges related to flood levels, impacts of previous and existing industrial uses, contaminated soils, and transportation connectivity.

The Mission Waterfront Revitalization Master Plan will stimulate neighbourhood-scale reinvestment by unlocking the waterfront’s employment potential to include new types of businesses, homes, shops, and restaurants. The plan enhances the current natural elements and improves the ecological integrity of areas where it has been diminished. These improvements will provide flood protection, serving a dual purpose as natural destination and critical infrastructure. This creates opportunities for everyone to touch the water on naturalized shorelines and experience the region’s stunning nature from a more protected and ecologically integrated vantage point.

Project Team: O2 Planning & Design; Aplin & Martin; BOP Architects; Bunt; and, Purpose Driven Development and Planning.


Location: Thorold, Ontario

In December 2020, partners HOPA Ports and BMI Group (then Bioveld Canada) introduced the Thorold Multimodal Hub at the site of the former Resolute Paper Mill next to the Welland Canal. In late 2022, BMI Group purchased another adjacent property, a vacant former automotive manufacturing facility, bringing the Thorold Multimodal Hub lands to 400 acres of multimodal industrial lands. More than $90 million has been invested across the Hub to reconfigure and modernize the site infrastructure, including reactivation of the rail lines, and upgrading the buildings to suit modern users.

The project brings together a range of stakeholders behind an objective of making better use of Niagara’s valuable multimodal-industrial assets: HOPA Ports, private sector owners BMI Group, and civic economic development stakeholders who have championed the project. The shared vision has enabled the Hub to grow in phases over time, allowing new lands and industrial capabilities to be added to the ‘industrial ecosystem’ over time. The project has been highly successful, exceeding goals for new tenancies in the three years since launch.

Project Team: HOPA Ports; BMI Group (formerly Bioveld); City of Thorold; and, GIO Rail.


Communications, Marketing and Public Engagement

Location: Toronto, Ontario

The Waterfront Toronto (WT) Port Lands Flood Protection (PLFP) project is an eight-year construction program that will protect Toronto’s waterfront from flooding, allowing for redevelopment, which involves building a new river valley though the Port Lands and re-naturalizing the mouth of the Don River. Port Lands Flood Protection will remediate and revitalize one of the largest underdeveloped stretches of downtown waterfront in North America.

This project involves excavating and treating approximately 1.4 million cubic metres of contaminated soil and treating and reusing much of it on site. Waterfront Toronto’s communications department executes a comprehensive outreach strategy to build support for the Port Lands Flood Protection project and keep the public informed by:

  • Creating a fun and engaging video campaign to explain the scope and impact of the project
  • Holding unique and innovative live events that promote understanding of the science and engineering behind the brownfield redevelopment underway
  • Sharing progress updates using innovative channels to keep project advocates engaged
  • Commissioning photographers to document and interpret the site’s transformation, including public engagements like CONTACT Photography Festival installations and artist talks.

Project Team: Waterfront Toronto; Bespoke Collective; Toronto and Region Conservation Authority; and, Agency Partners (Ports Toronto and CreateTO).

Meet the Port Lands - Waterfront Toronto

Location: Whitehorse, Yukon

This project aimed to restore an area of Ta’an Kwäch’än Council (TKC) Settlement Land impacted by historic mining so that environmental impact was minimized, and the site could be used, as it was historically, by First Nation Citizens. Several expired placer claims were located on TKC Settlement Land, around 35 km north of Whitehorse. The land around the site had traditionally been used for harvesting food and medicinal plants for generations; however, in the 1980s, five placer mine claims were staked. The claim owner lived on site and used the land for a variety of activities including mining. The claim owner passed away in 2017 and responsibility for site restoration was passed to the Territorial and federal government.

Gaining support for the restoration program was complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, because the community could not meet to discuss how the restoration should be carried out, nor see the impact on the site before and after the restoration works. The approach of providing digital material online was successful in engaging with the community and making the project a success.

Project Team: SLR Consulting; Ta’an Kwäch’än Council (TKC); Government of Yukon; and, Federal Government (CIRNAC).

Lands | Government of the Ta'an Kwäch'än Council