The Octagon Pond Brownfield Redevelopment Project in Paradise, NL, received an honourable mention in FCM’s 2020 Sustainable Communities Awards.
Looking for lands for recreational, public service and commercial development, the Town of Paradise, NL, purchased a large former industrial area polluted over decades of use. The Town took steps to remediate the brownfield site and protect the watercourses flowing through it, and is building facilities such as a community centre, hockey arena and a planned residential and commercial development.
Brownfield was the answer to Town’s need for new facilities
In the early 2000s, the population of Paradise began to grow rapidly, doubling in size in under a decade and creating a sudden need for more amenities and services—particularly recreation facilities, stores and restaurants. The Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation (NLHC) owned the large acreage of contaminated lands, and both NLHC and the Town shared a goal to see the lands remediated and redeveloped. The initiative’s primary objectives were to develop economic and recreational opportunities for the community and to protect the watercourses on the brownfield site.
Contaminated land redeveloped into arena, park and more
After acquiring some land, the Town began ongoing work to remove or cap contaminants such as chemicals, metals, tires and petroleum products left from the former steel mill and other industrial operations. To support the remaining privately owned polluted development areas, the city created the Brownfield Development Grant Program which assisted landowners with remediation costs of developing sites like the Octagon Pond. To date, a number of recreational facilities and public outdoor spaces have been developed on the land, including the Town’s first arena, with two NHL-sized ice surfaces; a youth and community centre, featuring a rock climbing wall, skate park, and gymnasium; and a park adjacent to the arena that has an accessible playground, dog park and community stage. Plans have been presented to build a mixed-use development on the remaining portion of the site with medium to high density, multi-storey residential and significant commercial components.
Project provides community, environmental and economic benefits
The recreational facilities built on the site have bolstered civic pride, allowed youth sports teams to play and practice locally rather than in other towns, and enabled community recreational programming and activities. The park hosts upwards of 20 community events a year, attracting over 35,000 visitors, and the arena has hosted national events in addition to the local minor hockey league and figure skating club. Conservation zones now protect two ponds and a connecting brook on the site from encroachment of the new developments, and the upgrade and remediation of the brook protects the native brown trout population and creates more natural habitat. Finally, estimates for the commercial property tax once the site is fully redeveloped are three times the tax collected prior to redevelopment.
Unexpected situations created both challenges and opportunities
The biggest lesson the Town learned from the multi-year initiative is to strike a balance between the original project objective and the unforeseen obstacles and opportunities that arise over time. For instance, Council had to stand firm with private developers who challenged the requirements of both the stream remediation measures and land use assessment report, while being sensitive to business realities.
Another unexpected situation turned out to benefit the town when the Rovers Search and Rescue organization approached them to build a facility on the brownfield site. The Town agreed to a long-term lease agreement for the property, and the Rovers agreed to let the Town use the facility as a secondary operation centre during municipally declared emergencies.