Exploring new uses for Thunder Bay's brownfield sites: Study underway to catalogue what industrial properties could be repurposed to attract investment.

Author:Ross, Ian
 
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One of Canada's largest commercial property valuators is taking an inventory of Thunder Bay's historic industrial lands.

Wakefield Cushman is conducting a land study for the City of Thunder Bay to catalogue brownfield properties to determine if those lands can be repurposed and redeveloped for new uses.

The waterfront is the area of focus with its derelict grain elevators and weedy vacant sites where sawmills and pulp and paper plants once stood.

Doug Murray, the retiring CEO of the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC), sees only open-ended potential for these prime spots.

"I think we have a tremendous opportunity to redevelop and repurpose those lands for things like condominiums, senior living and active lifestyle residential projects.

"But first we have to understand what's going on with them (environmentally) and how we can better position them so investors feel confident in seeing a return with those types of projects."

To push the initiative forward, Murray is handing the reins of the CEDC over to his successor, Eric Zakrewski, a professional engineer who ran his own environmental consulting firm.

When the study is finished next spring, city staff and council should have a defined picture on how many brownfield sites exist, the nature and scope of any contamination, and if these sites can be redeveloped or should stay industrial.

Brownfields are categorized as undeveloped or previously developed properties that may be contaminated. They can be former industrial or commercial properties that may be underutilized, derelict or vacant, such as abandoned service stations, former landfills, foundries, or paper mills.

The CEDC listed the creation of a brownfield redevelopment policy among its goals in its three-year strategic action plan.

It's an initiative Zakrewski was quick to mention in an interview in early November.

Zakrewski said he'd like to loosen regulatory red tape to better stimulate brownfield redevelopment.

"Thunder Bay has a tremendous inventory of historical, industrial lands that, I think, can be repurposed and repackaged for the investment community to help foster critical development that can really boost our economy."

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