The City of Mississauga is poised to give official plan approval to a transformative 245-acre vision for lands abutting Lake Ontario that could become home to 20,000 new residents, create thousands of new jobs in the innovation sector and showcase the very latest in sustainable urban living technologies and practices.
From such proposals as a district heating scheme and "fine-grained" street grid arranged in precincts, to incubator office spaces featuring "collision centres" that encourage idea generation, the plan represents an opportunity for Mississauga to gather the most innovative and green concepts from around the world and create a new waterfront community, said Lorenzo Ruffini, strategic leader for the plan within Mississauga’s planning and development department.
The Inspiration Lakeview concept, as it is now billed, has been in development ever since the Lakeview coal generating station was torn down in 2006.
The provincial government proposed a natural gas plant in the coal plant’s place, an unpopular idea that spawned the creation of the grassroots Lakeview Legacy Group, Ruffini explained. The citizens began to develop alternative ideas to "take back the waterfront," he said, and offer Mississauga citizens more greenspace within a broader mixed-use plan.
Facing political pressure, then Premier Dalton McGuinty nixed the gas plant a week before the 2011 provincial election.
Formal planning for the space then began in earnest.
Given a clean slate, with hundreds of acres of brownfield available for redevelopment, city council cast a wide net looking for ideas, said Ruffini.
"We tried to engage the entire city on our waterfront," he said.
"Our consultant, Urban Strategies, made it a requirement that any consultant that came in had to carry some subs that had international experience and we would look at best practices from around the world."
The benefit of involving international thought leaders was illustrated when Swedish experts were told about the new G.E. Booth Wastewater Treatment Facility, built just to the west of the Lakeview lands, said Ruffini.
"Folks from Sweden came over and we told them, one of the negatives is that we have a sewage treatment plant, and they said, ‘you gotta be kidding, that’s the greatest thing. You should be harvesting the energy from that thing,’" he said.
"In Sweden they run their buses off the gases they get from these plants."
The Region of Peel subsequently undertook a feasibility study into harvesting energy from the plant.
A master plan that was adopted in 2014 serves as the framework for the proposed official plan amendments. The amendments were considered by the city’s planning and development committee in September and subsequently two open houses were scheduled for Nov. 9, with a statutory public meeting to consider the amendments set for Dec. 5.
The final step of the planning stage would be city approval of the official plan amendments, expected in 2017.
The proposal has solid political backing with local MPP and Finance Minister Charles Souza, Mayor Bonnie Crombie and local councillor Jim Tovey, who has been integrally involved in the planning for years, among the supporters who showed up at a public unveiling in September. Ontario Power Generation (OPG), a provincial crown corporation, still owns the former coal plant site but the province intends to sell off some of the lands to developers.
The planning documents foresee broad mixed uses within an "innovative, green model community," with housing, mostly medium density, arranged in four precincts, each with its own character; new roads and transit corridors; and cultural facilities, an innovation corridor and post-secondary campus.
Ruffini said the housing mix was derived from a combination of input from the public and private developers, with the parties cognizant that a certain high level of density would be required to meet Ministry of Transportation guidelines for a transit-oriented community.
GO service is available within a couple of kilometres at the Port Credit and Long Branch stations, and the Hurontario LRT will be built with Port Credit as the southern terminus. The master plan calls for a higher order of transit, with a possible station and new transit loop that could be served by LRT or buses, he said.
The ideal international community that planners view as a model, said Ruffini, is Hammarby Sjostad, outside of Stockholm, Sweden, where a vibrant community was built on reclaimed brownfields.
Toronto’s downtown was the anti-model, Ruffini said.
"The public was very clear they did not want a wall of condominiums along Lakeshore Road, or a wall of condos along the waterfront," he said.
"People were absolutely clear, ‘we don’t want to see what has happened in Toronto on our waterfront.’"
Mississauga is recognized as underserviced in terms of post-secondary educational institutions, and Ruffini said the planning partners identified possible synergies between post-graduate students studying energy from waste at the sewage treatment plant and private sector innovators.
"We looked at the notion of being able to combine innovation, technology, education, jobs and existing infrastructure and that was the crux of the ideas behind the innovation corridor," he said.
"Much like what they’ve done in Hamilton with the medical community and in Kitchener-Waterloo with the technology community."
Technical studies completed, underway or planned — besides the energy-harvesting research — include the Lakeview Waterfront Connection study involving the city and regional conservation authorities, environmental research into providing access to the landmark Western Pier, market analysis research on the Innovation Corridor, the Lakeshore Road Transportation Master Plan initiated by the city and a cultural study into possible adaptive reuse of the Small Arms Building on site — it was formerly an arms manufacturing plant in the Second World War.
Golder Associates has been involved in both master planning and the Western Pier study.
There will also have to be soil remediation studies and work undertaken where the coal plant was located but Ruffini points out that much of the housing will have underground parking so there might be up to 80 per cent of the soil excavated anyway.