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Orillia brings home a Brownie award

By Patrick Bales, The Orillia Packet & Times

Members of Orillia city council gather around the trophy presented to the city Tuesday for winning at the 2016 Brownie Awards. Pictured, from left to right: Coun. Tim Lauer, Coun. Ted Emond, Mayor Steve Clarke, Coun. Pat Hehn, Coun. Sarah Valiquette-Thompson and Coun. Jeff Clark. PATRICK BALES/THE PACKET & TIMES

Members of Orillia city council gather around the trophy presented to the city Tuesday for winning at the 2016 Brownie Awards. Pictured, from left to right: Coun. Tim Lauer, Coun. Ted Emond, Mayor Steve Clarke, Coun. Pat Hehn, Coun. Sarah Valiquette-Thompson and Coun. Jeff Clark. PATRICK BALES/THE PACKET & TIMES

If the Brownies are the Academy Awards of dirt, then judges like Orillia, they really like Orillia.

The city's recreation centre project took home a 2016 Brownie Award Tuesday night at the annual event hosted by the Canadian Brownfields Network. The under-development facility was awarded the trophy in the REBUILD - Redevelopment at the Local/Site Scale category.

Orillia Mayor Steve Clarke said it was amazing to be honoured for the redevelopment of 255 West St. S. He acknowledged the degree of difficulty there had been in getting the shovels in the ground for the recreation centre, particularly shovels in the specific contaminated ground of the former industrial site.

"There had been a cloud over this project for a while," Clarke said. "To have this award, adjudicated by professionals from across Canada, I think is a validation of the project."

The judging panel was made up of 13 people from across the country, all experts in the area of brownfield redevelopment.

"Judges looked at whether the project demonstrated excellence in site-specific responses to public policy initiatives that would accelerate the pace of local regeneration," explained David Pitre, project manager for the Canadian Brownfields Network. "What that means is there were obviously public policy initiatives (for) Orillia to decide to develop a rec centre there. They tailored the response to that initiative for the site."

Judges also considered how the site would interact with the surrounding area and if it would enhance the public realm, appreciating how a recreation centre could integrate with other other opportunities in the area. The synergies the judges saw helped pushed Orillia's project over the top.

How the land is being used also played into the city's favour.

"The vein of those of us in the brownfield area with a lot of projects is what they call 'dig and dump,'" Pitre said. "You've got contaminated soil and someone just digs it up and transfers it somewhere else. They just transfer the problem, they don't deal with the problem. The judges would have liked how the redevelopment and remediation took place."

Clean fill from west Orillia will be brought so the capping of the site can begin, once the geopier installation is completed. That is expected to wrap up before Christmas.

The Brownies featured 10 awards this year, including six category awards for developments, one individual award for a builder and three best-in-show awards, where all nominees were eligible.

The winners were a roughly even mix of those already operational, such as Guelph's Metalworks project, and projects still under construction, such as the Orillia recreation centre.

pbales@postmedia.com

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