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Old Posted Nov 25, 2008, 3:47 PM
thistleclub thistleclub is offline
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Hamilton brownfields in the Globe

Brown v. green equals blue landowner
KEVIN MARRON
Globe and Mail Update
November 25, 2008 at 6:00 AM EST


Hamilton businessman Carl Turkstra believes he has a gold mine in the brownfield property he has purchased in the city's beleaguered north end, although it remains to be seen what else he will find as he digs out the metals and PCBs that have accumulated over more than 100 years of industrial use there.

Mr. Turkstra, who is chief executive officer of family owned Turkstra Lumber Co. Ltd. and not a professional developer, says he will have to dig deep into his own pockets to clean up the 16-acre former Frost Fence and Wire Products Ltd. site, in spite of the support he is receiving from the City of Hamilton's vaunted brownfield redevelopment program.

“It's like buying one wheel of a car,” he says of the $15,000 city grant that will fund an environmental study and close to $700,000 in potential tax relief under the city's Environmental Redevelopment and Site Enhancement program if his assessment increases after the project is completed.

What's missing, Mr. Turkstra says, is any source of interim funding to help with the purchase and remediation costs – banks won't approve a mortgage until environmental liabilities are removed.

“You're talking a lot of money here and most people would probably have trouble finding that much cash to buy the building and clean it up unless they can mortgage it. That's the huge flaw in the whole system that there's no government support for people who want to do this,” says Mr. Turkstra, who has financed this project largely with private capital.

Furthermore, a continuing controversy over Hamilton's plans for employment growth has left Mr. Turkstra and others questioning whether the city still has a commitment to promoting the revitalization of its old industrial core as it strives to encourage greenfield development in the rural area near Munro International Airport to the south of the city.

The need to clean up and redevelop hundreds of dilapidated sites that litter what was once the heartland of Canadian industry has long been seen as a key city goal.

Hamilton, in the 1990s, was one of the first cities in Ontario to adopt an incentive program and planning process for brownfields. Just a year ago, Mayor Fred Eisenberger described brownfield lands as key to regional growth.

It therefore came as a surprise when a planning study reported earlier this year that the city has only 91 brownfield properties, covering 377 acres, that are ripe for redevelopment, not 1,386 properties, covering more than 7,000 acres, as had previously been believed. The finding accompanied recommendations that the city promote greenfield lands near the airport as areas for future employment growth, prompting some council members and citizens, including Mr. Turkstra, to question whether city staff members were playing down the brownfield opportunities in order to persuade the provincial government to approve growth in rural areas.

“I think Carl is in part right that some of our staff see that our only future employment lands opportunity is around the airport. I don't happen to agree,” Mr. Eisenberger says.

City staff members say they came up with 91 sites by strictly applying the definition of a brownfield as “an abandoned, vacant, derelict or underutilized commercial or industrial property where past land use activity has resulted in actual or perceived contamination.”

According to Neil Everson, director of economic development and real estate for the city's planning and economic development department, much of the property previously considered as potential brownfield land is being used in some way and has owners who are paying taxes.

“If they're paying taxes and they're current, technically they're not a property that's there for redevelopment. Are they the highest and best use? Maybe not. But what authority does a municipality have with the exception of trying to expropriate them?”

But there is a debate among city councillors and staff as to how the term “underutilized” should be interpreted and whether more sites should be included in the brownfield inventory. Mr. Eisenberger maintains there are about 7,300 acres of brownfield land that should be included in an expanded definition.

Nevertheless, the mayor says the city has already had considerable success in promoting brownfield development with its program of tax incentives. He and city staff note that an Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing survey found that Hamilton exceeded all other municipalities in brownfield development activities last year, with 19 new applications under the municipal brownfield incentives program, compared with a provincial average of four.

Mr. Turkstra says the site he has purchased “for a few million dollars” is a good example of the kind of opportunity that is available in the city's north end, the broad swath along Hamilton harbour that is also home to the steel mills.

He says he originally was looking at the property for a project that didn't come through and decided to buy it anyway because he saw the potential, in spite of the serious environmental problems on a part of the site that had been a galvanizing operation.

In spite of his concerns about the difficulty of financing the purchase and clean up of brownfield sites, Mr. Turkstra readily admits he should come out ahead on the deal.

“I bought this whole property, completely paved and fenced, with 3,000 square foot of space, half of which is now rented and used, for a fraction of what it would cost to build it. When I get done with this thing, I'm looking at probably no more than 30 per cent of what it would cost to build in a greenfield.”

Mr. Turkstra says it's a shame that the difficulty of getting mortgages or other financing for the initial cost of brownfield development “puts it out of reach of anyone but an individual who has a lot of friends or is very well funded, or a very large corporation that probably doesn't want to be bothered with such a time-consuming process.”

As a business person, Mr. Turkstra is optimistic about the possibilities of his property. As a citizen, he says he's passionate about the need for redeveloping Hamilton's industrial north end.

“We have this enormous wasting asset down there which is extremely valuable,” he says. “You've got hundreds of thousands of square feet of space available. You've got all the infrastructure in place – the roads, water, and sewers. You have a port, highway access, a large supply of underused labour, all the houses, schools, sports facilities, stores – everything sitting there and it's wasted.”
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Old Posted Nov 25, 2008, 3:54 PM
raisethehammer raisethehammer is offline
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awesome job by Carl (some on this forum would call him a negative squelcher, but I digress).
Citizens like him can take a lead role in this and hopefully start to get a majority of council on board instead of leaving staff and airport officials to do biased studies with predetermined outcomes.

I hope Carl makes a ton of money on this and is very successful in showing a model that other groups and individuals can take.
Bravo.
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Old Posted Jul 15, 2013, 7:03 PM
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What's next for Hamilton's brownfields?
By Adam Carter
CBC News

Hamilton has its work cut out for it when it comes to developing the Bayfront industrial area's mass of brownfield land, a leading industrial broker says.

“It's 100 plus years of heavy industry down there,” said Drew Blair, a broker and partner with the Blair Blanchard Stapleton real estate brokerage. “But now you have a more stringent environmental act that most of those sites couldn't meet if they were tested today.”

Brownfields are underdeveloped or once-used industrial properties that might be contaminated — and Hamilton has a lot of them. The city estimates that there are hundreds of vacant “under-utilized” buildings and properties in the Bayfront industrial area alone.

'As a city, what do we want to do? Just push it to the side forever? Or do we tackle it now?'
—Mathieu Langlier, executive officer, Hamilton-Halton Home Builders' AssociationThe building stock in that area is older than much of the city, and many of its buildings lie abandoned and derelict. Environmental advocates were pushing for the redevelopment of those lands instead of the city's controversial Airport Employment Growth District, but lost that battle when the Ontario Municipal Board ruled in favour of the proposed expansion.

But that doesn't mean that the city's priority shouldn't still be redevelopment in the Bayfront area, says Don McLean, a founding director of Environment Hamilton. He sees that as the city's first step, as laid out by the province. According to a provincial policy statement, “long-term economic prosperity should be supported by promoting the redevelopment of brownfield sites."

“All of those opportunities are still there. They haven't changed,” McLean told CBC Hamilton. “The city can still do the right thing.”

Businesses want 'virgin' sites

But that's easier said than done, Blair says. When shopping industrial properties to prospective buyers, many just aren't interested in brownfield development.

“Certain industries just want to be on pristine, virgin sites,” Blair said, adding that it's extremely difficult to get a company to purchase brownfield land. “If your industry wants a clean site — that image and that feel — you're not looking at brownfield sites.”

Cost is a big factor too. The city estimates that developing a brownfield site is between 14 and 27 per cent more expensive than a comparable greenfield site. And if that brownfield site had, say, a 40,000 square foot building on it that had to be demolished (which isn't uncommon in Hamilton's older industrial area), that price actually rises to between 22 and 34 per cent more expensive.

The city does have its Environmental Remediation and Site Enhancement (ERASE) community improvement plan, a set of programs designed to encourage and promote brownfield redevelopment.

The ERASE plan offers a set of grants and funding to prospective buyers who might purchase a brownfield site — but the city doesn't have a great track record when it comes to making those sites viable for industries, Blair says.

It would likely take a helping hand from the province or the federal government to really get things underway, he says.

“Cleanup is the easy answer, but it's much bigger than that,” he said. “As long as the environmental act stays the way it does and the lower city has the perception it does, I don't know where you'd even start.”

Meeting demand

Expanding the city's boundaries by the airport was a necessity, even with the brownfield sites in the lower city, says Neil Everson, Hamilton's director of economic development. He says the city has only a 2.4 per cent vacancy rate for industrial properties — a number that is just too low.

“The fact is, we don't have enough buildings that meet the demand of companies looking to move here or expand,” Everson said. “It's a real issue.”

Blair, for his part, agrees. He says the industrial vacancy rate in the city has been an issue for the last number of years.

“It makes our job very difficult,” he said. “You can sometimes answer a client right then and there and say 'no, that doesn't exist' — which isn't a good answer to give them.”

Everson says that while yes, there may be a lot of vacant industrial properties in the lower city, most of them don't meet the needs of modern businesses. Most need at least 25-foot ceilings, loading dock doors and immediate access to a major highway, he says.

“Yes, people might see a lot of empty buildings, but do they meet those criteria?” Everson asked.

“They don't have the utility left in them,” Blair said. “They're past their time.”

Now or never

But Mathieu Langelier, the executive officer at the Hamilton-Halton Home Builders' Association, says that even with the airport lands ruling, the city still needs to push ahead with developing Bayfront brownfield land.

“It's always going to be more work,” Langelier admits. “But as a city, what do we want to do? Just push it to the side forever? Or do we tackle it now? It will still be a problem in ten years.”

He also questions the city's 2.4 per cent industrial vacancy rate. “What really is vacant?” he asked.

“That's a nice number — but take a drive along the waterfront. It's not possible.”

Langelier says the city needs to step in and force absentee landlords that own lands that are “contaminated, under-utilized and under-taxed” to do something with them instead of having them lie empty.

“It needs to come from city hall, and it's not going to be easy,” he said.
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Old Posted Jul 16, 2013, 2:54 PM
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Oooh! Great chance to build a park! They should keep most of the structures because the steel industry played a major role in Hamiltons history.
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Old Posted Jul 17, 2013, 8:31 PM
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I'm curious about whether the Port Authority or city has done any long-term scenario "what if"s.

The smaller parcels are one thing. There are many that could be reclaimed and used for something new, probably at a fairly reasonable cost.

But what's the long-term vision if say, USS eventually closes up shop? That's a huge tract of land, with huge buildings. How you remediate all that is one thing, and the enormous cost is another, but what would you want to put on it?

Leaving it vacant would be the worst possible choice. It's happened in other cities that had large steel factories, and it would be horrible for the city if it happened here too.

Do you keep the buildings and try to put them to another use? Do you demolish the buildings and cap the land, and try to replace it with more but smaller industrial operations? Use it for the port, either for bulk shipping and warehouses, or expanded container operations? Or try to get a large infusion of federal and provincial money for full remediation -- if that's even viable -- which would likely open up other land-uses?
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Old Posted Jul 18, 2013, 1:58 AM
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I think all we need do is look at the Randle Reef project; years in the planning and still waiting. That's a relatively small job compared to what awaits with the former Stelco site, etc. I can't imagine there being enough political will and, of course, money to properly remediate that brownfield. We'll be lucky if they take the buildings down and remove the piles of, well, whatever that is. With even more luck, Mother Nature will reclaim it. Beyond that, it's hard to imagine.
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Old Posted Jul 18, 2013, 3:08 PM
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Originally Posted by pEte fiSt iN Ur fAce View Post
I think all we need do is look at the Randle Reef project; years in the planning and still waiting. That's a relatively small job compared to what awaits with the former Stelco site, etc. I can't imagine there being enough political will and, of course, money to properly remediate that brownfield. We'll be lucky if they take the buildings down and remove the piles of, well, whatever that is. With even more luck, Mother Nature will reclaim it. Beyond that, it's hard to imagine.
That would be piles of coal that they make into coke for making steel. There's more coal piled there than I can ever remember. U.S. Steel was making the coke in Hamilton during the strike a few years ago and shipping it to Pittsburgh. They're probably still doing it and polluting our air instead of Pennsylvania's.
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Old Posted Jul 18, 2013, 6:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pEte fiSt iN Ur fAce View Post
I think all we need do is look at the Randle Reef project; years in the planning and still waiting. That's a relatively small job compared to what awaits with the former Stelco site, etc. I can't imagine there being enough political will and, of course, money to properly remediate that brownfield. We'll be lucky if they take the buildings down and remove the piles of, well, whatever that is. With even more luck, Mother Nature will reclaim it. Beyond that, it's hard to imagine.
Possibly. Though Randle Reef has been easier to ignore because it's not visible.

While the containment structure they're building is supposed to create usable land, in the case of USS/Stelco that's a huge tract - nearly 2km square. The potential tax revenue alone would create a big incentive to move ahead, even if the costs of remediation are massive. I'm not sure how evenly those costs would be spread across the acreage either - some areas would require more than others (like beneath the coal piles)
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Old Posted Jul 18, 2013, 10:59 PM
bigguy1231 bigguy1231 is offline
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That would be piles of coal that they make into coke for making steel. There's more coal piled there than I can ever remember. U.S. Steel was making the coke in Hamilton during the strike a few years ago and shipping it to Pittsburgh. They're probably still doing it and polluting our air instead of Pennsylvania's.

They don't make much steel in Pittsburgh anymore, most of US Steel's big operations are in Alabama. They are still producing coke here to be exported to the US.
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Old Posted Jul 24, 2013, 11:27 PM
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Post on Raise the Hammer that fits this discussion: Transforming Industrial Parks into Civic Treasures
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Old Posted Jan 22, 2014, 12:13 PM
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Brownfields akin to Randle Reef on land
(Hamilton Spectator, Andrew Dreschel, Jan 22 2014)

You can hear Neil Everson's barely contained frustration over the phone.

Yes, he says, U.S. Steel is absolutely a brownfield — but it's not on the market.

"People drive by and say 'Look at those brownfields.' Yes, they may be correct, they may be brownfields, but if they're not on the market, there's nothing we can do about it."

Everson is the city's director of economic development and real estate. He was reacting to suggestions that instead of expanding the urban boundary to meet new provincial job projections, the city should be looking at reclaiming vacant industrial lands.

He's perfectly correct, of course: U.S. Steel may be ending its steel making operations, but there's no for sale sign on its 329 hectares.

But what will the city do if and when that day comes? Councillor Chad Collins says council needs to have an answer ready and waiting.

The Ward 5 councillor want the city to develop a brownfield strategy that systematically looks at options for buying, cleaning up and reusing hundreds of hectares of vacant, derelict or underused industrial properties, many of which may be contaminated.

Collins says the strategy could be used for putting existing vacant brownfields back into productive use and to prepare for the day when companies such as U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal Dofasco downsize or try to sell off underutilized land.

"We'd be prepared with a plan that says there is a vision, there are standards, and this is what we'd like to see."

Collins raised the need for including a brownfield strategy in the city's strategic plan in the fall. Staff committed to getting back with an update on the city's inventory and options in the first quarter of this year.

It may come as a surprise that an old industrial city like Hamilton, which led the way developing tools for brownfield redevelopment, still doesn't have an overarching game plan for dealing with them.

The city's ERASE programs provide grants and tax breaks to property owners or buyers for cleaning up and returning brownfields to productive use. But the ad hoc approach relies on the private sector to seek help and Everson's team to try to entice suitors away from greenfield sites.

"Right now, it's reactionary, we're waiting for someone essentially to knock on our door and we're waiting for someone to take on these projects on their own," says Collins.

"That's what most municipalities do, but when you start to look at the acreage involved … In some cases, some of these properties will sit for decades unless we insert ourselves into the process."

According to 2008 statistics, the city has 1,386 brownfields on 2,995 hectares. Of those, 378 are in designated employment areas, covering 1,635 hectares. Of the 378 sites, 52 (67 hectares) are vacant, 15 (13 hectares) are abandoned, and 311 (1,555) hectares) are active in some capacity.



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Old Posted Jan 23, 2014, 2:37 AM
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I know there is a lot of sarcasm over the city's plans for employment land. And maybe I'm naive, but I do think they realize the potential of all that acreage on the harbourfront. The costs will be staggering though.

Given the importance of the steel industry throughout Canada's history, there's a strong argument that Hamilton should get both provincial and federal help to clean up the toxic parts of these properties... when they're made available. And maybe some help to grease the wheels of their availability?
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Old Posted Mar 1, 2014, 7:52 PM
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Horizon, city hope to get Hamilton back to business
(Stoney Creek News, Mike Pearson, Feb 28 2014)

Horizon Utilities and the city’s economic development department want to breathe new life into Hamilton’s vacant industrial buildings.

On Friday, Horizon unveiled its smart growth-inspired development plan to help businesses utilize vacant industrial properties without paying to reconnect electricity service.

The campaign launch was held at a 300,000 square-foot industrial warehouse at 950 South Service Rd. in Stoney Creek.

Max Cananzi, president of Horizon Utilities, said Horizon is the first sustainable electricity company in Canada.

“Our policy is a major game changer in the arena of development,” he said. “We are introducing a new program that aims to reduce connection charges and start-up costs for infill business to potentially benefit real estate and developer transactions. Our new smart-growth inspired policy offers a more affordable way to allow businesses to develop in Hamiton, unlike any other municipality.”

Neil Freeman, Horizon’s vice-president of business development, said the company’s policy changes will level the playing field between infill and greenfield development by lowering start-up costs. He said the smart growth program will be mutually beneficial to the utility and the business community.

“Horizons Utilities will get more usage out of the existing lines and stations, more revenue from the existing asset base, and what this does is it creates less pressure for rate increases because of the additional revenue from existing assets,” said Freeman.

Freeman said Horizon no longer bills customers for system enhancement charges, which are the indirect costs of new connections. The utility has also matched all of its business park locations in Hamilton with the capacities of high voltage stations.

“If the lines are at the street and there’s capacity at the station, the customer can essentially get reconnected at no cost, which makes for a significant benefit for customers,” he said.

Horizon is also helping customers find suitable infill location by compiling a database of vacant properties and cataloguing customer-owned electrical equipment within vacant buildings. Freeman said the database is currently being managed internally but could be made publicly available once privacy issues are sorted out.

Neil Everson, city director of economic development, said Friday’s announcement represents a watershed moment for development and revitalization in Hamilton. He said the city is also committed to sustainable development, as shown through the processing of more than 100 environmental study grants, 32 ERASE remediation grants and 163 acres of cleaned land. The initiatives, he said, have contributed to 650 jobs and over $300 million worth of construction.



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