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Getting Rid of Trolls in Toronto

There’s so much talk about the housing market and the price of Toronto mortgages on beautiful Toronto homes. But what about those patches of land that you turn your head away from as you drive by? Those spots around the city that you really can’t be too proud of, and may even make you a bit sad to see?

It’s these areas, in Toronto and other parts of Canada, that the Brownie Awards focus on. The Brownie Awards are sponsored each year by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation; and they’re awards given out to developers or builders for projects that focus on revitalizing brownfield sites. These are sites that have become contaminated by waste, and are transformed into things of beauty (and sanitation) once again. This year at the 2012 Brownie Awards, it was Toronto’s Underpass Park that won the award for best small-scale project.

This project was put on by Waterfront Toronto, the government agency that oversees waterfront developments in the city; and that was very concerned about “the place where trolls live.” That place is what’s now known as Underpass Park, but prior to that was simply a deserted area filled with scraps of metal and salt from the days it was occupied by Toronto Salt Works.

“You name it, we’ve got it,” said John Campbell, president and CEO of Waterfront Toronto. “You have a sodium absorption from all the road salt. You have metal and all sorts of stuff from the industrial uses of the time, when people didn’t pay much attention to what they did with their effluent.”

But that was then, and this is now. Now, Underpass Park is affluent rather than effluent. Including the skateboard park that was put in for Toronto’s downtown youth to have a place to practice their tricks, there are also basketball courts, a playground for families, and has become “a lively community hub.” A hard cap of cement was put down first, to protect any users from the contaminants that may still be lingering in the area, and a soft cap of clay and soil so that plants could have a place to bloom.

Brightening such a gloomy and dark place was the reason Underpass Park took the Brownie in the best small-scale project category, said Glenn Miller, vice-president of education and research for the Canadian Urban Institute, the organization that oversees the awards.

Many other cities and developments around Ontario were also recognized at this year’s Brownie awards. Here’s a list of other winners:

Legislation, policy, and program development: Smarter Niagara Incentives (SNIP), Niagara Region

Financing, risk management and partnerships: Village Suites Oshawa, Oshawa

Excellence in project development: Building scale: CCOC Beaver Barracks Redevelopment, Ottawa

Excellence in project development: Neighbourhood scale: George Brown College Waterfront Health Sciences Campus, Toronto

Communications, marketing and public engagement: FCM Brownfield Capacity Building Tools, Ottawa

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