Two Decades of Regeneration:
Making a Difference on the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River waterfronts
by Suzanne Barrett and Marlaine Koehler
In 1990, the Royal Commission on the Future of Toronto's Waterfront published a report called Watershed that called for an integrated, ecosystem approach to waterfront regeneration. In May 1995, the Waterfront Regeneration Trust and its then 27 community partners launched the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail from Hamilton to Trenton. Now, in 2010 the Waterfront Trail extends 740 km from Niagara to Quebec connecting 41 communities committed to regenerating their waterfronts. This article reviews the past two decades of work on the waterfront, describing some of the transformative projects underway by our community partners: the changing role of the Waterfront Regeneration Trust and the challenges we face as we enter the third decade of this incredible experiment.
A shorter version of this article appeared in the March- Apri l 2010 edition of the Ontario Professional Planners Journal. The cover of the OPPI issue appears left.
Excerpt from Ekistics: The Problem and Science
of Human Settlements,
Lake Ontario Waterfront: Update Since "A Decade of Regeneration"
by Marlaine Koehler
January to May 2004 issue
In this article, Executive Director Marlaine Koehler details
the challenges and successes of the Waterfront Regeneration Trust in the
years since the publication of "A Decade of Regeneration." She
decribes the transition from a provincial agency to a registered charity
and looks at the success of the waterfront partnership in bringing investment
to the waterfront through the Canada-Ontario Infrastructure program. She
also provides an overview of the marketing and promotion of the Trail
as well as an examination of the future challenges and opportunities for
regeneration along the Lake Ontario waterfront.
Four Articles by Ingrid Leman Stefanovic
The following four articles were written by Ingrid Leman
Stefanovic based on a survey she conducted of end-to-enders and children
on the Waterfront Trail. The survey looked at the way that people perceived
their experience on the Waterfront Trail and explored the relationship
between caring about a place and being a good environmental steward.
While all the articles pull observations from her research,
each one is written for a specific audience. Pathways is directed primarily
towards educators while "Integrating Natural and Built Environments"
is geared towards trail designers.
1. Integrating Natural and Built Environments
by Ingrid Stefanovic
2. Excerpt from Pathways: The Ontario
Journal of Outdoor Education
From End to End on the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail by Ingrid
Leman Stefanovic and Richard Oddie
3. Excerpt from Alternative Journal
On the Waterfront by Ingrid Stefanovic
4. Excerpt from Rethinking Nature:
Essays in Environmental Philosophy
Children and the Ethics of Place by Ingrid Stefanovic
Toronto Star Series on the Waterfront Trail by Kate Harries
Kate Harries of the Toronto Star and members of the Waterfront
Regeneration Trust completed the Trail in six trips during summer, 2002.
Kate Harries documented the trips in a series of articles for the Toronto
Excerpt from Ontario Planning
Journal (18k pdf)
A Decade of Regeneration: Realizing a Vision by Suzanne Barrett
In November 2000, ten years after the publication of the groundbreaking
report Watershed by the Royal Commission on the Future of the Toronto
Waterfront, its successor—the Waterfront Regeneration Trust—published
A Decade of Regeneration about the achievements and lessons of the past
Through a series of community workshops, surveys and interviews,
the Trust identified nine essential ingredients for successful waterfront
regeneration. They are:
• Make the waterfront a community priority;
• Look beyond your boundaries;
• Set the stage with good planning;
• Use milestone projects to build momentum;
• Design with heritage in mind;
• Add value with connections;
• Make it happen with creative partnerships;
• Secure strategic public investment;
• Attract private resources.
This article summarizes these themes using a selection
of case studies.
Excerpt from The Environmental
Guide 2002 (page 52-55) (1m pdf)
Toronto's Waterfront Trail: Creating a Lasting Treasure by Suzanne
The waterfront could be one of Toronto’s greatest assets and an
important part of the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail. It has been proven
that, both in Toronto and in other communities around the lake, a beautiful
waterfront pays huge dividends in terms of health, recreation, tourism
and quality of life. In Toronto, railways, industry, and the elevated
Gardiner-Expressway separate the community from Lake Ontario. This article
indicates that improvements have been made to Toronto’s waterfront
over the past 20 years, but many areas remain ugly, polluted and disconnected.
New plans for Toronto’s waterfront include re-naturalizing the mouth
of the Don River, improving transit, removing the barrier effects of the
Gardiner Expressway, creating live-work communities, and adding new trails
and parks. At the time of publishing, most of these plans were still conceptual,
and the years following would be the real test of whether the “new”
Toronto waterfront will be clean, green and accessible. The article indicates
that public support and involvement are essential to ensure that these
projects are completed.
Toronto and Region Progress Report 2001
Clean Waters Healthy Habitats Progress Report produced by
the Waterfront Regeneration Trust (November, 2001)
Toronto’s waterfront and watersheds have been on the “black
list” of Areas of Concern around the Great Lakes since 1987. This
document reports on the work that has been done since 1987 to restore
water quality and healthy habitats. It provides an in-depth assessment
of progress, outlines the remediation activities that are underway, and
establishes clear priorities for removing Toronto from the list of Great
Lakes Areas of Concern.
Toronto’s Remedial Action Plan was published in 1994 and has provided
guidance for a range of activities by watershed groups, municipalities,
the conservation authority, provincial and federal agencies, and industries.
The six priorities outlined for removing Toronto from the list of Great
Lakes Areas of Concern:
1. Wet weather flow management
2. Pollution prevention
3. Habitat restoration
4. Smart growth
The work plan outlined in this report to restore clean
waters and healthy habitats represents a major contribution towards the
high quality of life that will attract new business investments and meet
the needs of residents and tourists alike.
Clean Water Summit Bulletin, January 2002
Clean Waters for Toronto’s Waterfront
Toronto and Region Remedial Action Plan Bulletin
At the fourth annual Clean Waters Summit, environmentalists,
planners, engineers, government staff and elected officials gathered to
discuss priorities for restoring clean waters and healthy habitats to
the Toronto waterfront and watershed. The purpose of the Summit was to
report on the progress and establish priorities for the Toronto and Region
Remedial Action Plan. The 4th annual Summit focused on the relationship
between environmental quality and Toronto’s waterfront revitalization
program. Participants at the Summit agreed that Toronto’s 2002 Wet
Weather Flow Management Master Plan would provide important direction
for the water quality improvements that must accompany the waterfront
This article includes details of the plans that were discussed in regards
to Toronto’s waterfront revitalization program, as well as Toronto’s
Wet Weather Flow Management Master Plan’s objectives and processes.
Also included were the opinions and suggestions of three guest speakers
from Boston in regards to the improvement of water quality.
At the final plenary, Summit participants called for:
• Greater information sharing among all the players
to coordinate effective restoration activities
• Creation of a linked system of parks and habitats that will
contribute multiple benefits including environmental functions
• Development of a collaborative approach to implementing the
City of Toronto’s Wet Weather Flow Management Plan and the Waterfront
• Commitment by the City of Toronto and the newly created Waterfront
Revitalization Corporation to invest in a clean environment, recognizing
that it will pay dividends in quality of life and business investments
- Executive Summary (download
- Section 1 (download 575k pdf)
- Section 2 (download 1.4Mb
- Section 3 (download 600k pdf)
- Section 4 (download 1Mb pdf)
- Section 5 (download 225k pdf)
- Back (download 360k pdf)
- The Nature of Possibility: Experiences
in Risk Based Decision Making (1.3m pdf)
International Brownfields Exchange Report (2000-2002)
In collaboration with Groundwork Trust UK, the U.S
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Environment Canada, the
Waterfront Regeneration Trust organized a series of seminars and workshops
in 2000-01 to bring together practitioners and community leaders to
consider questions about redevelopment initiatives in light of international
best practice in risk-based decision-making.
The first meeting was held in association with the EPA’s Brownfields
2000 conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey. A small group of practitioners
there met to exchange expertise and ideas concerning best practice
in the application of risk assessment and risk management methods
in Brownfield redevelopment. A second seminar and site visits were
held in Manchester, England in November 2001. This report presents
the results of this exchange program.
In this report, Jody Kass, part of the delegation from the United
States that participated in the workshops, offered her observations
and conclusions as a platform for continued international exchange
of ideas and expertise. These are, briefly:
1- There is a need to integrate soft and hard issues
to achieve balance;
2- Greenspace should be integrated into the planning process upfront,
and not as an afterthought;
3- There is a need to link long-term environmental sustainability
with long-term economic sustainability;
4- There is a need to build leadership; and
5- Strong linkages between brownfields regeneration and pollution
prevention is needed.
- Transforming the Landscape – Hamilton,
Ontario: Windermere Basin Design Workshop (2.7m pdf)
International Brownfields Exchange Report (2001-2002)
Situated between the head of Lake Ontario and the Niagara
Escarpment, Windermere Basin is an ecological and cultural basin. The
Windermere Basin Steering Committee was established in order to facilitate
development of the Windermere Basin in accordance with the City of Hamilton’s
Official Plan. Members included representatives from government, environmental
institutes and community groups. The Committee focused on the basin’s
wildlife, history, and industrial use in compliance with restoring habitat
and implementing passive recreational use. This article describes the
workshop that was held for these representatives to generate preliminary
design concepts that could be used to develop more detailed plans for
the restoration of the basin.
Air pollution, possible soil contamination and poor habitat quality
were noted as the environmental concerns, together with the overall
quality of the basin. Five conceptual designs were developed that reflect
an interactive landscape with a strong link to its history, ecology,
and cultural features and to the surrounding landscape and community:
1 – Create a “front door” with connections
to the surrounding landscape;
2 – Make the Basin aesthetically pleasing and inviting;
3 – Establish green infrastructure;
4 – Use the Basin for education/interpretation; and
5 – Consider alternate ways to manage dredging.
Workshop results illustrated potential for a new image
for Windermere Basin. The article concluded stating that the results
from the workshop would be used to develop a Request Proposals for detailed
designs and implementation plans for the revitalization of Windermere
- Transforming the Landscape- Queens,
New York: Willets Point International Design Workshop ( 2.7m pdf)
International Brownfields Exchange Report (2001-2002)
Willets Point is an industrial area in northern Queens,
New York. The area lacks sanitary and storm sewer systems, and the illegal
disposal of industrial waste by local businesses contributed to the
environmental degradation of the soil and adjacent Flushing River. The
City of New York recognized the area’s potential to establish
better uses and advance economic development initiatives in surrounding
neighborhoods. As part of this effort, the New York City Department
of Housing Preservation and Development, in collaboration with the office
of Queens Borough President and the Waterfront Regeneration Trust, organized
a 3-day international design workshop in October 2001 in Willets Point.
The workshop was the first step towards the revitalization of Willets
Point. This article describes the ideas developed at the workshop for
the future of the area.
Revitalization of Willets Point offers an opportunity to address several
related problems concurrently, including high unemployment, lack of
green space, degraded environmental conditions and deteriorating public
infrastructure. The result of the workshop was a mixed-use site plan
that incorporated culture, commerce, entertainment, open green space,
increased accessibility, and significant architecture. Both incremental
and comprehensive implementation strategies were developed.
- Port Colborne Waterfront Seminar
Summary, November 20, 2001- Port Colborne, Ontario
On November 24th, 2001, landowners, local businesses, representatives
of community groups and various government agencies gathered in Port
Colborne to hear from the Waterfront Regeneration Trust about progress
in waterfront communities around Lake Ontario and abroad, about tourism
opportunities in Port Colborne, and to learn more about City Council’s
“Port Colborne Harbour Revitalization” initiative. The article
outlines information discussed at the seminar.
The Port Colborne waterfront is transforming from a predominantly industrial
area to a public one. Efforts to revitalize the Port Colborne waterfront
have been undertaken on the West side of the Welland Canal. Additional
opportunities were identified on the east side of the Welland Canal
by the Niagara Economic and Tourism Corporation, including future parkland
and residential areas, a golf course, sports fishing, protection of
Nickel Beach and improved pedestrian access. The City of Port Colborne
announced its commitment to develop a community based waterfront revitalization
strategy. It is working with the Waterfront Regeneration Trust and other
professionals to prepare plans and an implementation strategy that considers
the many opportunities for the City’s waterfront and also ways
of managing challenges including soil contamination, existing planning
designations, current land ownership and inadequate infrastructure.
The described next steps for the City of Port Colborne included presenting
a report to Council outlining the process for a detailed community based
planning initiative to revitalize the waterfront lands. Participants
at the seminar were encouraged to get involved in the planning process
and to provide their ideas for the future of the Port Colborne waterfront.
Contact information is provided.
- Transforming the Landscape –
Brooklyn, New York: West Bushwick International Design Workshop
International Brownfields Exchange Report (2000-2001)
As part of the City’s ongoing effort to revitalize
and advance economic development initiatives in the Bushwick neighborhood,
an international design workshop was organized by the Waterfront Regeneration
Trust’s International Brownfield Exchange Program and the New
York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) in
association with the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council (RBSCC).
This workshop brought together architects and urban planners from Germany,
Northern Ireland and Canada with experience in transforming Brownfield
sites into new uses, with local community leaders, elected officials,
city staff and professionals in the redevelopment field. It provided
an opportunity to share international experiences and best practices,
to participate in creating new ideas and principles to guide redevelopment,
and to establish consensus regarding future objectives and design options
for the former Rheingold brewery site. The article describes the ideas
developed at the workshop.
The design concept that emerged was a product of consensus and reflects
the community’s desire for action, specifically regarding greenspace
and housing development. Many public actions would be required before
approval of the design concept. The implementation strategy mapped out
during the workshop described the public review process and identified
several financing mechanisms that could be used to develop the different
phases of the plan. Workshop participants proposed the creation of a
task force that will help to advance the project through the public
review process. The task force will include members of City agencies,
the New York City Housing Partnership and Ridgewood Bushwick Senior
- Cities Exchange: A Meeting of the
International Brownfield Exchange, June 2000
Offices of Expo 2000 – GmbH Dessau, Germany
This article outlines the presentations by speakers at the an International
Brownfield Exchange meeting for project leaders around the world in
June, 2000. It was an exchange of ideas and practical experience by
project leaders involved in the redevelopment of derelict lands. It
was also an opportunity to establish an international network of contacts.
All of the presenters noted the important leadership role that cities
must play to ensure that redevelopment of brownfields happens - and
that it happens in a way that shapes change to benefit those who live,
work and visit the city. The ideas of key speakers such as Jerilyn Perine
from New York City, Luc Piccionin from Hamilton, Edwin Saphar from Rochester,
Malcolm Barton from the UK, and Evert Verhagen from Amsterdam, are included.
- The Nature of Possibility: Toronto Portlands
Design Workshop, October 29, 1999
International Brownfields Exchange Report (1999-2000)
The Portlands in Toronto is a large industrial area that
is now in transition to recreational, commercial and other uses. On
October 29, 1999, the International Brownfields Exchange brought together
local and international leaders involved in the regeneration of former
industrial areas. Teams of architects, urban designers, landowners,
technical experts and community representatives interpreted the principles
of the City of Toronto’s draft Part II Plan, "Unlocking the
Portlands" into design concepts. Four areas were considered in
the article: The Quays, Mouth of the Don River, Cherry St. Corridor
and the area South of the Ship Channel. The challenge for the Workshop
was to prepare design concepts for the four sites in order to:
• create better connections;
• establish a "sense of place";
• introduce multi-functioning green infrastructure;
• celebrate both the natural and built heritage of the area.
- The Nature of Possibility: South Buffalo
Design Workshop, November 1, 1999
International Brownfields Exchange Report (1999-2000)
The Waterfront Regeneration Trust and the Buffalo Economic Renaissance
Corporation (BERC) developed a progressive series of public meetings
to emphasize the importance of a comprehensive vision and implementation
strategy for the South Buffalo Project. The emerging vision integrated
environmental restoration, new public amenities, and meaningful job
creation that reflected Buffalo’s rich industrial and natural
heritage. In November 1999 the Trust’s International Brownfield
Exchange Program and the BERC hosted a design workshop to bring together
local and international representatives interested in redevelopment
of derelict land. The objective was to further develop and test specific
design ideas to help communicate new opportunities and a new image for
the former industrial lands in South Buffalo.
The article outlines the purpose of the workshop, in which participants
were to illustrate the qualities of a Livable Community using three
sites: the Union Ship Canal and two properties located in the Buffalo
River Corridor - the Cargill Superior Elevator Shoreline and the Concrete
Central property. All of the design concepts captured the need and the
opportunity for improved connection. Ideas for each site demonstrated
how connections could be established or enhanced using design features
to help overcome the prevailing sense of physical and psychological
- The Nature of Possibility: City of Niagara
Falls, NY Design Workshop, November 2, 1999
International Brownfields Exchange Report (1999-2000)
In November 1999, the International Brownfield Exchange
brought together a team of planners and architects from abroad with
local architects, residents, students, City officials and business leaders
to test ideas for transforming the industrial image of the City of Niagara
Falls and to consider the best options for revitalization. The results
provided a valuable contribution to the community development initiatives
now underway. Participants focused on three different Brownfield sites:
• Buffalo Avenue Industrial Shoreline;
• Highland Avenue Redevelopment Plan;
• The Browning Ferris Industries Niagara Recycling Landfill.
This article describes the design concepts created for
each of the three sites examined. Workshop participants re-interpreted
existing features, and through the introduction of several innovative
design elements, transformed empty lots and barren land into vibrant
and productive places.
- Redeveloping Brownfields: A Different
Proceedings of an International Symposium (April 7-8, 1998)
Waterfront Regeneration Trust Corporation
In April 1998, participants representing Canada and the United States,
the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and Italy, and included landowners,
investors, banker, regulators and community development specialists
gathered in Toronto for a different conversation about the redevelopment
of brownfields. This group shared a belief that the technical challenges
and financial risks so long associated with brownfields can now be seen
in a different way — as opportunities for economic and environmental
revitalization. Long dormant sites are being revitalized as owners,
investors and regulators find new ways to regenerate old industrial
areas. The result is a new “can-do” attitude that is improving
the investment climate and establishing the partnerships needed to ensure
the environmental and economic health of cities around the world. To
build on this momentum, the Waterfront Regeneration Trust, Environment
Canada, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, the United States Environmental
Protection Agency and
other partners were pleased to present this forum that brought together
leaders from the community, the banking, insurance, land development
and government sectors. Participants were allowed to relate their experiences,
and in doing so, describe ways to unlock the environmental, economic
and social potential of Brownfield sites. This record of the proceedings
is based on the speakers’ presentation notes, where those were
available, and on notes taken by Waterfront Regeneration Trust staff
throughout the Symposium.
The results of the Symposium suggested several important lessons that
can be passed on to others engaged in Brownfield redevelopment:
1. There is no single generic approach.
2. A project is nothing without a vision.
3. Integration makes it happen.
4. A diverse set of players is needed.
5. Partnerships enhance project viability.
6. Innovative, proactive local agencies play a lead role.
7. Those who understand and communicate risk and can measure it in
their own terms are likely to yield the greatest rewards.
8. Effective communication is essential.
9. Public education and community-based redevelopment projects build
ecological literacy and community capacity.
10. Public sector financial assistance can be used creatively to lever
- The Nature of Possibility
International Brownfield Exchange (1998-1999), December 1999
Brownfield redevelopment is one of the most pressing urban issues of
our time - and one of the biggest opportunities to curb urban sprawl,
to reconnect neighborhoods, improve public transportation, create meaningful
jobs and restore and protect greenspace.
The Nature of Possibility presents an overview of the state of the art
Brownfield redevelopment initiatives from the international arena. Results
of workshops held in five city regions - Amsterdam, Leuna, Buffalo,
Chicago and Toronto - highlight best practices and innovative design
concepts that are transforming derelict land into new places of vitality
More than 500 people participated in the 1998-99 program of the International
Brownfield Exchange. The Nature of Possibility captures their experience
and their vision for the sustainable city.