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Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Arts




Arku, Godwin


The practice of adaptive reuse is a unique concept of city building, where demolition and traditional brownfield redevelopment have been common practice. Though an already established method, adaptive reuse is becoming increasingly popular due to a greater intensity to protect heritage, reuse materials and structures, and offer unique architectural spaces. To achieve this, there must be sufficient policy in place to incentivize and mitigate the increase cost and risk which are usually associated with this type of development. This thesis combines a province-wide content analysis of Official Plans in Ontario’s 51 cities, with a more in-depth case study investigation on how adaptive reuse is implemented through policy and practice in London, Ontario. This thesis illustrates that cities in Ontario are actively promoting reuse as a tool for several of today’s planning predicaments such as: affordable housing, intensification, revitalization in the urban core, and creating spaces for creative and vibrant industries. However, when investigating the policy more closely, it seems that many initiatives are superficial in nature, and more closely resemble buzzword or fast policy.

Summary for Lay Audience

The changing economy and loss of manufacturing jobs in many economies has left cities with a surplus of vacant industrial buildings. Often, these buildings remain untouched by developers who view them as risky and expensive projects to undertake. Those that do get purchased for development, are frequently demolished, with a new structure built on top. Recently however, the practice of adaptive reuse – altering an existing building for a different use than its initial operation, is becoming more widespread in an attempt to preserve the cultural aspects of the building while also creating new economic opportunities for the community. This practice is being promoted by municipal governments in the attempt of mitigating part of the loss experienced when the industrial origins of the building ceased operation. This thesis explores how municipalities in Ontario, Canada are supporting an environment for reuse within their local economies and how this policy is being translated to actual practice. There has been little investigation into the role the regulative environment plays on reuse projects and this thesis contributes to filling this gap. It was found that many communities in the province have identified manufacturing decline and reuse as a tool to mitigate it, but many of the actual policies did not include substantive implementation steps and in some cases were found to be word-for-word copies of the provincial policy guidelines. Further, when policies were actually employed, those who implement reuse projects found many of them to be improperly scoped to the intricate nature of reuse development. This thesis offers recommendations for policymakers around the industrialized world dealing with the negative externalities of industrial decline in their local communities.

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