Are you interested in learning more about brownfields? Are you starting a brownfield initiative or program, and want to know more about key actions that your municipality can take to encourage the redevelopment of brownfield sites?

You’ve come to the right place. This web page is designed to support Canadian municipal staff and elected officials considering redevelopment in their communities.

Whether you’re a novice or an expert, you can use GMF’s seven-step framework to move your municipality toward achieving its brownfield redevelopment goals.

This learning journey will walk you through every step: from how to get started, to developing and marketing your brownfield program, to evaluating your success. You’ll also learn how to identify, navigate and reduce barriers to site redevelopment. We’ll show you how to access relevant guidebooks and tools, and you’ll hear from other municipalities who have successfully redeveloped their brownfields.

Your brownfield redevelopment journey starts now!

What are brownfields?

Brownfields are abandoned or underused properties where past activities have resulted in actual or perceived contamination, and where there is active potential for redevelopment. (Definition adapted from )

The seven-step framework

The seven-step framework, formerly known as the LiBRe framework, is based on best practices from Canadian municipalities that have successfully redeveloped brownfields.

The framework is a series of seven steps that municipalities can follow, adapting them for their local context, to become effective facilitators of brownfield redevelopment.

Complete the steps in the order best suited to your community. You might follow them one by one, undertake several simultaneously, or build on work already accomplished.

In addition to the framework, this learning journey on brownfields renewal will connect you to recent and relevant tools, case studies, roadmaps and success stories to help your community meet its redevelopment goals.

What is LiBRe?

LiBRe was the acronym for Leadership in Brownfield Renewal (LiBRe), a national peer learning program offered through FCM’s Green Municipal Fund from 2014 to 2022. LiBRe brought together a network of municipal governments from across Canada that were (and still are) committed to bringing their brownfield sites back into productive use.

Step 1: Commit to taking action

The first and most important step a municipality can take toward revitalizing local brownfield sites is to commit to taking action.

Regulations, cleanup costs and concerns about liability can pose significant barriers for developers interested in redeveloping a brownfield site. Without a nudge from the municipality, the site can sit idle for years, devitalizing the surrounding neighborhood, reducing property values, and posing public health risks.

Municipalities across Canada have overcome these hurdles through strategies, programs and client-focused approaches that encourage redevelopment. The key to their success? A strong commitment to action. They devoted the human and financial resources required to achieve their brownfield redevelopment goals.

Where should you begin?

  • Read Getting started on your brownfield sites: Committing to action for an overview of brownfield redevelopment challenges and what municipalities can do to overcome them.
  • Discover the benefits, challenges and drivers of brownfield redevelopment—and the risks of inaction—on pages 3–7 of the guidebook.
  • Do you need help justifying why brownfield redevelopment is important? Watch this webinar to learn about the financial and climate benefits of infill development in general.
  • Talk to local developers, landowners and your colleagues to learn about brownfield issues in your community. For example, have a look at what Montreal did to rehabilitate the Pointe-Saint-Charles industrial park.
  • Learn how Canadian municipalities have taken action on their brownfield sites and how their efforts have paid off. Read our case studies to see how you can build internal awareness and obtain buy-in from your colleagues and council.
  • Formalize your municipality’s commitment to brownfield redevelopment through an official planning or strategy document. See a list of examples on pages 8–12 of the guidebook.
  • Create an interdepartmental team to spearhead future initiatives, such as building a brownfield inventory and developing a brownfield strategy.

Once your municipality has committed to taking action on local brownfield sites, you can focus on uncovering the factors influencing their redevelopment. We’ll explain how to do that in the next step.

Best practice

Kingston formalized its commitment to fostering brownfield redevelopment in its Official Plan and Community Improvement Plan

Step 2: Understand the landscape

Explore how you can better understand the factors influencing brownfield redevelopment in your community.

Figure out your local economic and policy context

Before targeting local brownfields with municipal policies and programs, you need to know what’s standing in the way of redevelopment and how you can help. The regulatory environment, available funding opportunities and the local real estate market are just some of the factors that make brownfield redevelopment projects economically viable—or unworkable.

Where should you begin?

  • Review these roadmaps to learn about the policies and regulations influencing brownfield redevelopment in your province or territory. What tools, incentives and funding programs are available to your municipality?
  • Identify the individuals and organizations in your community that play a role in brownfield redevelopment, such as landowners and developers.
  • Develop an inventory of the brownfield sites in your community. This guidebook will help.
  • Assess the local market for brownfield redevelopment and identify the sites that present the best opportunities. Then you’ll be able to devise a strategy to encourage their redevelopment. Check out this case study showcasing how Paradise, Newfoundland leveraged brownfield sites for municipal infrastructure projects.

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the context surrounding brownfield redevelopment in your community, you’ll be ready to start working with brownfield stakeholders to address redevelopment barriers. We’ll explore this topic in Step 3.

Best practice

Watch this video detailing how  Langley worked with a commercial real estate services company to better understand the city’s local market for brownfield redevelopment, as well as the needs of developers and landowners.

Step 3: Build partnerships

Explore how you can work with local stakeholders to find innovative solutions to your brownfield challenges.

Learn from people on the front lines

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to making brownfield redevelopment financially viable. You can increase density allowances, streamline municipal approvals, or even offer financial incentives—among other solutions. Which measures are most effective for you? That depends on your municipality’s particular context.

Consulting those on the front lines of brownfield redevelopment (such as landowners, developers, remediation experts, etc.) will help you select the best approaches. These stakeholders can also provide valuable feedback in a later step about how well you’re implementing your programs and initiatives, and what you could do to improve.

Where should you begin?

  • Read this short guidebook for tips on building relationships with brownfield stakeholders.
  • Engage staff, elected officials and the local community. Their buy-in is crucial for your brownfield initiatives to succeed.
  • Consult development professionals and industry experts. They can tell you about local brownfield redevelopment challenges and advise you on which solutions to put in place.
  • Meet with funders to learn about funding options for brownfield projects in your community.
  • Contact provincial ministries and other municipalities to better understand the role of municipalities in the redevelopment process. GMF’s roadmaps can help you identify tools, incentives and funding programs available in your province or territory.

Once you’ve learned from local stakeholders, you’ll be ready to use your findings to create a municipal brownfield strategy and programs. We’ll cover this in Step 4.

Best practice

Brantford has a dedicated brownfields coordinator who shepherds developers through the redevelopment process. The coordinator also works with the city’s Brownfields Community Advisory Committee to raise local awareness about brownfield issues. Click here for more info.

Step 4: Devise a strategy

Through the first three steps, you came to understand how engaging stakeholders can help you learn about local barriers to brownfield redevelopment and identify the best solutions. Now you’ll learn how to create a brownfield strategy and programs that catalyze redevelopment.

Develop a strategy and a suite of programs

Municipalities can choose from a variety of financial and non-financial incentives and customer service approaches to encourage brownfield redevelopment. After conducting the research and consultations we recommended in the previous steps, you’ll have a better sense of which measures might be needed in your municipality.

The next step is to develop a brownfield strategy. This will help you pinpoint the specific measures most likely to catalyze redevelopment in your community. Bundling these into formal brownfield programs and proactively marketing these programs to your target audiences will help you position your municipality as "open for business."

Where should you begin?

  • Read this guidebook on how to create and implement a brownfield strategy.
  • Watch this video to see how Edmonton has benefited from its brownfield strategy and programs.
  • Check out this tool to learn more about the environmental, economic and social benefits of brownfield activities through the examples of three municipal brownfield projects.
  • Define the scope of your brownfield strategy and programs. Should they encompass the entire municipality, focus on a particular neighborhood, or target a specific type of brownfield (for example, former gas stations)?
  • Identify priority brownfields and devise a realistic redevelopment vision for these sites by engaging the community and conducting appropriate analyses (for example, a sensitivity analysis and/or a “highest and best use” site assessment).
  • Select incentives that will help you achieve your vision. For guidance, refer to Appendix B of the guidebook on how to create a brownfield strategy.
  • Design a customer-oriented process featuring streamlined approvals and reduced processing times. This process is highly valuable to developers because it can significantly reduce their project costs and help them respond to the real estate market in a timelier way.
  • Bundle these incentives and customer service approaches into formal programs. These programs will form the basis of your municipal brownfield strategy.

Once you’ve developed a brownfield strategy and programs, the next step will be to promote them and generate interest from your target audiences.

Best practice

Regina developed a comprehensive Underutilized Land Improvement Strategy that encourages redevelopment of local brownfields as well as "bluefields" (abandoned institutional sites), surface parking lots and chronically vacant buildings. Read the case study.

Step 5: Promote programs and opportunities

You’ve worked hard to create the right brownfield strategy and programs to spark redevelopment in your community. Now here are some tips on how to attract developer interest by promoting your programs and redevelopment opportunities.

Communication is key

Your success in encouraging brownfield redevelopment hinges on how well you publicize municipal programs and opportunities, and how you respond to inquiries. Landowners, developers and other stakeholders must first be aware that opportunities exist. Then, they need to know who to turn to for more information so they can explore their options.

Where should you begin?

  • Read this guidebook to learn how to promote your brownfield programs and redevelopment opportunities. Learn about the creative approaches taken by Brantford, Maple Ridge and Langley.
  • Identify your target audiences (i.e., landowners, developers, etc.), with help from the above guidebook.
  • Develop a marketing and communications plan aimed at these key audiences.
  • Produce compelling marketing materials that will convince them to take advantage of your municipal programs and redevelopment opportunities.
  • Identify a brownfield point-person to act as a single point of contact for developers. This person will field inquiries and shepherd brownfield initiatives through municipal approval processes. Your point-person is the face of your brownfield programs—make sure that they have good customer service skills and are knowledgeable about brownfield remediation and redevelopment.
  • Proactively promote your programs and redevelopment opportunities to your key audiences. Arrange meetings, speak at events, and publicize your programs via the web, social media and print publications.

With your promotional efforts underway, you’ll be able to turn your attention to managing your brownfield programs and projects. The next step looks at how to do that effectively.

Best practice

Mississauga held an extensive public consultation to develop a clear vision for its Inspiration Lakeview site, garnering developer interest and community support.

Step 6: Manage your brownfield programs and projects effectively

The tips we shared in Step 5 will help you attract developer interest in your brownfield programs and redevelopment opportunities. To maintain that interest over time, you’ll need to ensure that developers have a positive experience working with your municipality. Let’s discuss how to balance their needs with your municipality’s administrative requirements.

Be client-focused

Whether they’re applying for a brownfield program, responding to a request for proposals or trying to get a redevelopment project approved, developers want to work with municipalities that are client-centered, solution-oriented and efficient.

Where should you begin?

  • Re-examine your internal approval processes. Are the roles and responsibilities of relevant departments and staff members clearly defined? Are there opportunities to streamline processes and reduce uncertainties for developers?
  • Ensure that the information your municipality provides on its brownfield programs, redevelopment opportunities and approval processes is accurate, timely and user-friendly.
  • Run effective tendering processes for your brownfield initiatives. Read this guidebook to learn how to attract high-quality submissions and find the right proponent for the project.
  • Set realistic expectations when discussing brownfield projects and programs with developers. Clearly explain the municipal and provincial approvals that will be required and outline the processes and timelines. You can use these roadmaps to guide your discussions.
  • Monitor applications as they move through internal approval processes to address any delays.
  • Demonstrate the benefits of brownfield redevelopment by selecting performance indicators and taking before and after pictures. These indicators will enable you to see how your brownfield initiatives are contributing to neighborhood revitalization over time.

Once you’ve been managing your brownfield programs and redevelopment projects for a while, it will be important to assess their impact on your municipality and the community. We’ll talk about how to do that next, in the final step.

Best practice

Guelph created clear, user-friendly guidelines to help developers navigate municipal processes for developing contaminated or potentially contaminated sites.

Step 7: Evaluate, improve and celebrate

All that’s left to do now is evaluate your progress and celebrate your successes. Tracking the impacts of your programs is the only way to learn what works well—and what might need improving. Celebrating your successes is important too. It keeps everyone motivated and the publicity can help spark new redevelopment projects, creating more success stories.

Demonstrate success and make adjustments

Increasing brownfield (or any land use) redevelopment in your community can be a long process. It may take several years to reap the benefits of your programs and projects. To maintain support for municipal investments in brownfield redevelopment, you will need to demonstrate the impacts these investments have had over time. You do this through monitoring and evaluation.

Periodic evaluations will also help you determine whether your brownfield programs are still working well. If your municipality’s context changes significantly, revisions to your brownfield strategy and programs may be needed.

Where should you begin?

  • Evaluate and report on the impact of your brownfield programs and projects:
    • Evaluate costs and benefits
    • Assess whether desired outcomes are being achieved
    • Check on client satisfaction levels
  • Adjust your brownfield program offering and service delivery as needed. Make improvements based on evaluation results and best practices in other municipalities.
  • Read this guidebook to learn how the brownfield programs in two cities, Edmonton and Kingston, evolved over time to stay responsive to stakeholder needs.
  • Celebrate your brownfield success stories to garner more interest from developers and maintain support from decision-makers and the community. Apply for awards for your brownfield programs and redevelopment projects. Ensure that any municipal financial contribution to a project is acknowledged through on-site signage and media releases.

Evaluating your progress and celebrating your success is the seventh and last best practice in this Brownfields Redevelopment Learning Journey. Read on for a few key takeaways in the recap.

Best practice

Edmonton created a testimonial video entitled “Innovation in Sustainability: Redeveloping Contaminated Sites” to highlight a local developer’s satisfaction with the city’s brownfield programs. City staff also showcase their brownfield successes by delivering presentations and applying for awards.

Recap: Top 10 things you can do to spark brownfield redevelopment

Through this microlearning approach, you learned what municipalities can do to foster the redevelopment of their brownfield sites. As a wrap-up, we highlight here the 10 most important things you can do.

Use the checklist below to assess how well your municipality has positioned itself as a leader in brownfield redevelopment, what your municipality has already accomplished, and what remains to be done.

Commit to taking action on your brownfields
  • We’ve made an official commitment to brownfield redevelopment in a municipal strategy or plan.
  • We’ve formed an interdepartmental team to spearhead brownfield initiatives.

Understand the factors influencing brownfield redevelopment in your community

  • We’ve assessed the factors influencing brownfield redevelopment in our community.
  • We’ve compiled a brownfield inventory.

Build partnerships with brownfield stakeholders

  • We’ve consulted brownfield stakeholders on how best to address local redevelopment barriers.

Devise a strategy to revitalize your brownfields

  • We’ve identified priority brownfield sites and established clear, realistic redevelopment goals.
  • We’ve identified the best incentive measures to catalyze their redevelopment.

Promote your brownfield programs and redevelopment opportunities

  • We’re proactively promoting our brownfield programs and redevelopment opportunities to our target audiences.

Manage your brownfield programs and projects

  • We’ve created a streamlined and customer-oriented process for managing our initiatives.

Evaluate your progress and celebrate your success

  • We track the impacts of our brownfield programs and redevelopment projects.

Putting brownfields on the map: See successful redevelopment projects across Canada

Want to learn more about what you can do with your brownfields in your municipality? One of the best ways to do that is to read up on how other communities have turned their brownfields into success stories.

Explore the map below for lots of inspiring examples of GMF-funded brownfield redevelopment initiatives from coast to coast to coast.


British Columbia

25 projects found


4 projects found


4 projects found


New Brunswick

2 projects found

Newfoundland and Labrador

0 projects

Nova Scotia

4 projects found

Prince Edward Island

0 project

Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut

2 projects

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Interested in learning more about land use decisions, natural assets, and how to foster compact, complete and resilient neighborhoods? Check out our land use resources section.

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