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April 03, 2017

Ontario’s History the Key to OPPI Case Competition Win

Above: Aerial shot of the parcels of land. Source: Google Maps

On March 11th, 2017, students from accredited planning programs across Ontario competed in the second annual OPPI Case Competition, held this year at the University of Toronto. Organized by OPPI’s Student Liaison Committee (SLC), each university entered one team to represent its respective planning program.

Rob Armstrong, RPP, the Director of Development and Environmental Services for the Municipality of Meaford presented the issue and explained what the municipality was looking to achieve on three parcels of waterfront property. The students had the day to work on the task and then give a short presentation of their proposal to a panel of RPPs made up of Rob Armstrong, Christine Furtado and Meghan Bratt. 

The Final Plan

Our team, representing York University's Masters in Environmental Studies (MES) program, set off to find the best "fit" for the Municipality of Meaford. The team was comprised of three first-year students (Alex, Jennifer, and Brandon) and three second-year students (Charles, Brendan, and Patrycja).

Above: Proposed site plan.

As part of the competition, each team was given various materials, including the Official Plan and a prior study by Dillon Consulting. In accordance with the goals of the Meaford Official Plan, our team focused on celebrating Meaford’s heritage, while enhancing economic benefits, and not taking away from Meaford’s downtown. We shaped the proposal by drawing from Meaford’s heritage of apple picking, the Georgian Trail, and its indigenous history. The solution needed to be flexible because both walkability and keeping this area a “four seasons destination” are key goals for the municipality. 

After much discussion, we settled on the three parcels of land: a hotel/resort (similar to those in Blue Mountain) with a cidery on parcel #1; an open area with a park, skating facility, stacked townhouses, and a welcome centre, architecturally based on traditional Ojibway Waginogan structure on parcel #2; and townhouses on parcel #3 to fulfill the growing population of Meaford.

To create a four season destination, a beach was proposed along parcel #1 with an extended waterfront trail for walking and biking in the summer, and warming stations along the route in the winter to make skiing and snowshoeing more comfortable. Our group also proposed a woonerf (defined by Google as “a road in which devices for reducing or slowing the flow of traffic have been installed”) at the end of Boucher Street (between parcel #1 and #2). This creates a walkable and safe space for pedestrians in the summer with the ability to close the road off completely for street festivals, and in the winter to accommodate vehicular traffic to support businesses. This area would be named “The Core.”

Lessons Learned
Our central focus was to incorporate Meaford’s rich history and culture into the waterfront redevelopment plan. The judges acknowledged that the inclusion of all histories was the key reason why the proposal put forward by our team was chosen to be the best “fit” for Meaford.
Acknowledging and using Ontario’s history to maintain a presence when planning for future development is an important component in redevelopment. As a group, we look forward to presenting our winning case competition project at the 2017 OPPI Conference in the Town of Blue Mountains this October.

Above: the winning team and judges. From left to right: Jennifer Spalton, Alex Gaiten, Meghan Bratt, RPP, Darren Pigliacelli (York U OPPI first-year Student Liaison Committee Rep.), Brandon Stevens, Charles Ng, Brendan Rice, Patrycja Jankowski, Rob Armstrong, RPP (Municipality of Meaford), and Christine Furtado, RPP.

The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author(s), and may not reflect the position of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute.

Post by Patrycja Jankowski & Brandon Stevens

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