Clean Technology News

Building a Sustainable City
Published on: April 11, 2024

Northcrest Developments is leading the transformation of 370 acres of undeveloped Downsview Airport Lands in Toronto. We spoke with Derek Goring, CEO, to learn more about the company is prioritizing decarbonization in this future “city within a city.”

How is your organization contributing to a cleaner, greener future?

Our focus is the transformation of 370 acres of the largely undeveloped former Downsview Airport Lands in Toronto into a leading-edge city within a city. Its scale is unparalleled in North America, providing a distinctive canvas to integrate sustainability from the ground up. While the build-out spans decades, our commitment to a cleaner, greener future has influenced every decision from day one.

Our Framework Plan is a testament to this, outlining a vision to establish new global precedents. From the macro to the micro, we’re prioritizing decarbonization at every turn: weaving sustainability and green infrastructure into the very fabric of our project, from energy sources to adaptive reuse to exploring building materials and street widths.

From the outset we have collaborated with experts, academics, students, and community members, ensuring diverse stakeholders shape our approach. This project will truly be a testing ground. By uniting diverse perspectives, we’ll create a model for sustainable development to help set new standards for urban planning and sustainability.

Other than coffee, what gets you out of bed in the morning? How does this work connect with your core beliefs and values?

The monumental responsibility of leading the development of a 370-acre canvas in our city quite literally propels me out of bed each morning. It’s not just a project for me; it’s a profound chance to positively transform our city, bringing major opportunity to our city’s north.

This work is intimately tied to a core conviction: when executed thoughtfully, development has the power to positively transform cities and in so doing, people’s lives. Being at the helm of this monumental initiative allows me to contribute to something significant to our city with true generational impact. Leading a team of the industry’s best and brightest on this once-in-a-lifetime project is a genuine honour; we’ve assembled a passionate group of city-builders from diverse backgrounds, united by this shared vision.

The sheer energy emanating from this opportunity is more than any cup of coffee could provide – though coffee certainly helps to get the job done!

Tell us about a recent win for your organization.

We have recently reached a significant milestone through a strategic partnership with Hines, a globally recognized developer with extensive experience in mixed-use developments and mass timber buildings. Hines’ expertise will play a pivotal role in the development of the project’s first neighbourhood, The Hangar District. Together, we are set to create nearly 3,000 new homes and generate over 7,000 jobs, with a focus on repurposing existing hangar buildings and introducing flexible commercial and office spaces, all surrounded by vibrant public areas.

The bedrock of our shared efforts lies in our joint commitment to bringing sustainability into development strategies, from beginning to end. This partnership is exciting, not only because it’s our first, but it definitively affirms our dedication to sustainable urban neighbourhoods from the outset.

What’s next for Northcrest?

Our next pivotal phase is to secure Secondary Plan approval. This is the culmination of years of deep community engagement and considered planning, marking the transition from  vision to implementation.

We believe development should be a force for positive change, for communities and the environment. As we push the development forward, our focus is on fostering positive impacts, including prioritizing climate resilience, enhancing the natural environment, and creating opportunities for diverse communities to thrive.

At the helm and with our like-minded partners, we’re passionate about this generational city-building opportunity, and how to thoughtfully integrate cutting-edge clean tech solutions that prioritize sustainability and innovation.

Finally, what’s on your team’s wish list for Ontario’s cleantech sector?

To transform urban development, we need to transform the sector. We believe in industry-wide shifts to set new standards of sustainability and innovation, including:

  • The introduction of financial incentives, such as tax rebates and grants, to accelerate the adoption of green building practices. Tangible benefits like these can foster economic growth and drive widespread acceptance of sustainable development.
  • Addressing bureaucratic hurdles for cleantech start-ups. We support a streamlined process reducing red tape, ensuring the swift implementation of innovative solutions. Efficiency and innovation should be prioritized to speed up the introduction of groundbreaking cleantech initiatives, including production techniques and materials.
  • Increased support and financial backing for research and development initiatives. This push aims to expand the boundaries of sustainable practices, particularly through the retrofitting of existing structures. The expansion of federal green infrastructure programs, dedicating broader resources to large-scale, sustainable projects to facilitate a comprehensive industry-wide shift towards sustainability.

On our own site, we’re eager to delve into the potential of Downsview as a cleantech hub, bolstering our forward-thinking approach. Utilizing existing hangar buildings to attract companies and establish an ecosystem where they both operate and innovate within our development would enhance the reputation of the GTA as a global leader in urban cleantech innovation. We firmly believe this concept merits serious consideration for its capacity to drive innovation and foster collaboration in the cleantech sector, and spur transformative benefits writ large.

Photo by Jan Huber on Unsplash