City of Burlington reaches build-out


            Planning for future growth through community-building intensification and partnerships

GTA Construction Report special feature

Burlington, in the Halton Region at the western end of Lake Ontario, is both part of the Greater Toronto Area and the Hamilton Census Metropolitan Area. The city is currently renewing its strategic plan and rethinking its economic development strategy as it reaches build-out; that is, it will grow through intensification rather than greenfield subdivisions.

Anita Cassidy, Burlington Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) manager of special projects, says the city is about seven months into developing Burlington Vision 2025, which has looked at trends and gathered stakeholder input to develop seven strategic economic directions.

“These include the development and intensification of employment lands, a growing community, fostering business growth, transit and transportation and intergovernmental alignment,” she said. “These are underpinned by developing a unique brand and co-ordinating with other levels of government to develop the infrastructure plans to support our vision.”

In 2014 fDi Magazine named Burlington as one of the top 10 Small American Cities of the Future. Ian Cameron, BEDC manager of business retention and growth, says the city wants to continue to be forward thinking.

“Burlington is the first community in the Halton region facing growth build out,” Cassidy said. “We’re looking to reinvent ourselves but are doing research first to get to the heart of the right issues.”

Noting the city has just one remaining subdivision on the books, Cameron says Burlington will focus on infill investment. The challenge then is understanding how to move from greenfield development to a redevelopment perspective and, along the way, ensuring a focus on building neighbourhoods and communities, rather than simply intensifying.

Part of growing and evolving the city will also come from ensuring strong partnership opportunities. BEDC for instance is currently partnering with McMaster University to develop an event series to support business growth.

The Burlington Innovation District is a collaboration between BEDC, the City of Burlington, McMaster and Fraunhofer Society (Europe’s largest application-oriented research organization) to consider ideas and next steps for moving forward with plans for such things as new integrated urban design, energy and transportation planning, and the challenges and opportunities of perspective developers.

“We’re trying to create a different profile for the city,” said Cameron. “The innovation district is part of that.”

Cassidy says the challenge is in not only supporting development through physical infrastructure, but also the soft support businesses need to come, to stay and to grow.

She says many residents have great stories about living and working in Burlington, with  its great quality of life and waterfront area. Along with a planned collaboration between the City of Burlington and Halton Region to develop the waterfront asset over the coming decade, she says these stories need to be leveraged, along with partnership opportunities in neighbouring communities.

“Here in Burlington we look both east and west for opportunity and advantages. Within the region of Halton each community has its strengths, we work well together and we’re working to align with our regional partners to achieve our vision.”

Cassidy says the BDEC also is engaging and partnering with local businesses.

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