2008 Residental Development
City of Kitchener
Through financial incentives and a streamlined development process, the City of Kitchener was able to guarantee the successful transformation of an industrial wasteland into "The Intowns," a 128-unit townhouse live-work residential community. The development — which incorporates diverse housing styles and includes tree-filled, open green space at its centre — offers a new vision for how municipalities can manage redevelopment in the core. The city used a tax incremental financing (TIF) approach, made possible under Kitchener's Brownfield Community Improvement Program, to provide a grant to the developer to build on the site. The city's ongoing public consultation process, and its responsiveness to the issues raised, earned the support of Kitchener residents. From this development, the city expects to collect more than $100,000 in new tax revenue annually.
With 213,000 citizens, the City of Kitchener is the Region of Waterloo's largest city. Located in the heart of southwestern Ontario, Kitchener proclaims that it is "proud to be a part of, and contribute to, a region whose population is growing at more than twice the national rate."
More than a century ago, Kitchener was a hub of industrial development. Today, the city's strong economic and employment profile echoes its long history as a manufacturing centre. Almost 25 per cent of Kitchener's labour force still works in manufacturing. Only Windsor, Ontario, has a higher concentration of manufacturing jobs in Canada.
Thanks to forward thinking by its mayor and council, Kitchener has opted to use the remnants of its industrial past to fuel growth and greening in the downtown core. Changes to the city's zoning bylaws in 2001 meant that certain industrial uses would no longer be allowed within the downtown core. In 2003, Ontario's Ministry of Municipal Affairs approved Kitchener's Brownfield Remediation Program, setting the stage for the city to launch EDGE (Encouraging Development for Growth Efficiency) in 2005.
"Rather than seeing these brownfields as blights, City Council sees the great potential they offer," says the city's brochure for the brownfield development program within EDGE. Brownfield redevelopment in Kitchener is based on 21st-century planning ideas and the desire to "green" the downtown for future generations.
- The TIF grant (estimated at more than $1 million) helped the developer clean up the brownfield. The city has pegged the expected rise in tax revenue for the 3.4-hectare brownfield parcel at more than $100,000 annually, after development.
- Community satisfaction with the process was high. "It always seemed that city staff and the developer were really listening and genuinely trying to work together.... It's gone from a nightmare to a dream come true," a neighbourhood activist wrote in a local newspaper editorial.
- The public consultation process that the city used to make this project a reality is viewed as a model on how to do public engagement. City of Kitchener staff presented this aspect of the project at the 2006 National Brownfields Conference in Toronto, and the project received a national "Brownie" award at the Canadian Urban Institute's 2007 annual conference in Montreal.
- This redevelopment is a model example of the implementation of the city's vision, the Region of Waterloo's Regional Growth Management Strategy and the Province of Ontario's Places to Grow growth plan.
- Model townhouses were built and opened in 2007. The site is currently completely serviced, and construction on the first phase began in spring 2008. Esquire Homes is the builder.
- CONSULTATION WORKS. "Community consultation and direct involvement by the community are powerful tools for community building," says Brandon Sloan, senior planner with the City of Kitchener. "What is the vision? Finding the answer to that question is something we had never really done before." The city found that it is not enough to just consult with people. "You have to finish it off. You need to address residents' comments, and actually make sure people's concerns are not ignored."
- COLLABORATION BRINGS RESULTS. "We adopted co-project management, with a brownfield specialist and a development planner from the city working together throughout the whole process, and bringing in other staff as needed," said Sloan. The result? All the required applications were processed in six months. "This is relatively unheard of in most municipalities," he said.
- SET A CLEAR VISION. "Municipalities need to know what is best for the look, design, and function of a site. Then they can tailor the zoning, bylaws, and regulations to fit those needs," said Sloan.
Partners and Collaboration
- Neighbours living close to the brownfield site
- Concerned Citizens for Neighbourhood Protection
- Stirling Bridge Ltd. (owner of the brownfield site at 90 Woodside Avenue)