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Soil cleanup allows for development of former shipyard in Collingwood

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Soil cleanup allows for development of former shipyard in Collingwood, Ontario



PAT BRENNAN / dcnonl.com





It was one of Ontario’s most spectacular shows. Thousands of spectators would flock to the Collingwood harbour to watch a 10,000-ton lake freighter slide off a concrete dock, plunge into the water and send a two-storey-high tsunami racing across the bay.


It happened many times at this Georgian Bay port during the 103 years it was one of Canada’s busiest shipbuilding centres. Collingwood had one of the few shipyards in North America to employ the dramatic side-launch procedure to launch its ships.


The shipyard closed down in 1986, but hundreds of spectators will again gather at the The Shipyards to watch spectacular shows. Much of the industrial land of the original shipyards has been bulldozed and sifted and piled and groomed to create a large amphitheatre.


It’s one of several of Collingwood’s new waterfront recreation and entertainment features where the shipyards once sat as it evolves into The Shipyards, an exiting new waterfront village.


Converting the 40-acre industrial site into an up-scale new home community is being touted as one of the most successful rehabilitation projects on the Great Lakes. The Shipyards sits at the northern terminus of Highway 10 where it meets the waters of Georgian Bay. Its creation is spearheaded by Frank Giannone, president of Fram Building Group.


Giannone says in many ways The Shipyards is a twin to Port Credit Village, the award-winning new community with 700 homes that Fram and its partner Slokker Canada, created 139 kilometres down Highway 10, where it starts on the shores of Lake Ontario. That’s why the highway is also known as Hurontario Street.


In Port Credit the developers rehabilitated the 26-acre brownfield site of the St. Lawrence Starch Company into a waterfront village and won design and urban renewal awards from the Washington-based Urban Land Institute.


Giannone says the cleanup success of the Port Credit site was a major factor in persuading Collingwood the same thing could be done with their shipyards. He hopes to win similar awards with the Collingwood project, which he says was an even bigger ecological challenge.


Slokker is a large development and construction company headquartered in Amsterdam, Holland with extensive North American land holdings and construction projects. It is a partner with Fram on both the Collingwood and Port Credit sites.


The ship-building facility was owned by former Prime Minister Paul Martin and his Canada Steamships Lines. As well as large lake freighters, the Collingwood yard built 27 corvettes and minesweepers for the Canadian Navy during the Second World War.


The last large vessel built in Collingwood was the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Sir Wilfred Laurier, now based in Victoria B.C.


When the shipyards closed in 1986 nearly 1,200 jobs were lost. It was the principal employer in town. CSL shifted its shipbuilding and repair operations to the Port Weller fry docks on the Welland Canal in St. Catharines, Ont. in a joint venture with Upper Lakes Shipping.


The buildings on the Collingwood shipyards were knocked down and for 20 years the site sat like an ugly moonscape separating the town from its downtown waterfront.


The cleanup of the former shipyard was a joint venture with CSL, Fram and Slokker and directed by Terraprobe Ltd., a Brampton-based environmental engineering firm.


“We had to move nearly 14,000 truck loads of contaminated soil, but with the design of the project we were able to keep most of it on site. If we had to truck that soil off site somewhere we could never afford to develop the site,” said Giannone.


It took more than four years to clean up the site before home construction could start. Fred Serrafero, VP of development at Fram, said 130,000 metric tones of contaminated soil were groomed into a seven-acre berm standing 12 metres high on the west side of the property. The berm was then covered with more than a metre of clean fill. It will serve as a toboggan hill in winter and a perch year round for views out over Georgian Bay.


Twenty test wells were drilled in and around the new park to measure water quality. No toxic leakage was detected, so development proceeded.


The site had been created in the 1800s by dumping coal ash and cinders into Georgian Bay, plus dredging sand up from the bottom of the bay. Serrafero said much of that material was approved by Ontario Ministry of Environment to be retained, treated and covered on site.


He said test wells will be monitored twice a year for five years.


More than 18,000 cubic metres of wood and 4,000 cubic metres of steel were processed locally, but off the site. Another 50,000 tons of crushed concrete and stone was recycled on site and used to create small islands just off the edge of the park. A fish biologist is creating a fish habitat around the islands.


Georgian Aggregates and Construction, a division of Walker Industries Company, did the site clearing, recycling and excavations.


Fram and Slokker plan to build 720 low- and mid-rise condominium residences at the site, many of them above retail shops, service boutiques and restaurants. Residents have moved into the first phase.


Ralph Giannone, Frank Giannone’s brother is the principal architect for the home designs at The Shipyards. Fram is an acronym using the first letter in the names of John Giannone’s four children — Frank, Ralph, Antionetta and Mariana. John Giannone immigrated to Canada from southern Italy in 1958, started one of Toronto’s largest masonry companies and created Fram in 1981.

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