Promoting Adaptive Reuse in Ontario: A Planning Policy Tool for Making the Best of Manufacturing Decline

This journal article by Vecchio and Arku (2020) examines the practice of adaptive reuse in Ontario which is a unique concept of city building. The method of adaptive reuse is becoming increasingly popular as there is more focus on protecting heritage, reuse materials and structures, and offer unique architectural spaces.

Date added 6 November 2020
Last updated 6 November 2020

This journal article by Vecchio and Arku (2020) examines the practice of adaptive reuse in Ontario which is a unique concept of city building. The method of adaptive reuse is becoming increasingly popular as there is now more focus on protecting heritage, reuse materials and structures, and offer unique architectural spaces. In order to investigate how cities in Ontario are responding to local economic development challenges, the authors used content analysis on the Official Plans for the 51 cities in the province. Whilst this is a review of Ontario, the practice of and conceptual aspects of adaptive reuse can be replicated in other parts of the world.

Hundreds of industrial buildings across Ontario have closed as they were unable to maintain businesses in a globalised and post-industrial economy. Many of these buildings are situated centrally in the city and would therefore be ideal for other purposes. However, to achieve the intended outcomes of adaptive reuse, sufficient policy must be in place to incentivise and mitigate the increased cost and risk of such practice.

The themes identified in the content analysis of this study reflect on broader issues around governance and addresses local economic growth. Key themes include ‘Acknowledgement of Industrial Decline and Economic Transition,’ the ‘Creation of a Community Improvement Plan for Brownfield Reuse/Redevelopment,’ and ‘Grants, Subsidies, or a Unique Policy That Promotes Industrial Reuse.’ Other central themes in the analysis focus on specific sites within cities’ redevelopment plans or that of reuse of industrial lands and buildings. A final cluster of themes highlight ways that former industrial lands could be re-deployed in order to address urban development goals.

The findings suggest that cities preferred a site-specific approach instead of a standardised approach for the city as a whole. However, the study also found that there was a lack of congruence regarding policies promoting reuse. The article concludes that the concept of reuse provides a unique opportunity to preserve the industrial spirit of these once thriving areas, whilst at the same time enabling transition to the new economy. This does rely on cities ability to develop distinctive local policies that suit their situation that promotes reuse in their communities. If these policies successfully translate into practice, cities could be able to harness the benefits of the method of adaptive reuse.