For more than four decades, a massive coal power plant sat on the shore of Lake Ontario in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga, with hulking towers that were visible from miles away. In 2005, the government shut down the plant to reduce emissions. Now, the area is being reimagined as a 15-minute city.
The former coal plant was called Lakeview Generating Station, a somewhat ironic name given that it blocked residents from reaching the waterfront and obstructed views of the lake. “It cut the community off from access to this part of the waterfront for decades,” says Brian Sutherland, vice president of development at Argo Development Corporation, the company leading the redevelopment of the area. “And smog days were a regular occurrence in this area of Mississauga due to the coal-burning power plant itself.”
Initially, the government considered replacing the old infrastructure with a somewhat less-polluting gas-fired power plant. But people in the community pushed for more. “There were a lot of grassroots community efforts that really resisted and had a more ambitious vision for what the waterfront could be here, toward a mixed-use, sustainable waterfront community,” Sutherland says. The city started to work on that vision, and in 2017, put out an open call for bids to buy the property. A coalition of companies led by Argo won the bid, got city council approval for a master plan in 2019, and last week, got approval for development applications for the sustainable neighborhood, called Lakeview Village.
The design is centered around the 15-minute city, the idea that people should live within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from most of their daily errands. The streets are designed to prioritize walking and biking, and a new bike trail along the waterfront will connect to another path that leads directly to Toronto. A metro station is within walking distance. A new innovation district on the site plans to create 9,000 local jobs, so many people living in the new neighborhood’s 8,000 housing units can walk only blocks to work. Retail stores on the site will provide local shopping. The property will have new park space—including a stream that will be uncovered after being buried underground, bringing back fish habitat—and sits adjacent to a new coastal conservation area that is being constructed on the edge of the lake using concrete excavated from the foundation of the former coal plant. “We’ve managed to create a place that is not just a bedroom community,” says Sutherland.
The designers are exploring the use of a district heating system that runs on waste heat from a neighboring wastewater treatment plant, so all of the buildings in the neighborhood can be heated and cooled without gas furnaces or air conditioners. The neighborhood also may use an automated trash collection system that sucks recycling, compostables, and trash into an underground pipe that leads to a central facility. “It’s an incredibly clean, efficient way of dealing with waste disposal,” he says. The developers saw a similar system in use in Sweden, where it helped maximize recycling rates. It also helps keep streets cleaner and plastic trash out of the water, since the outdoor bins in park areas can automatically empty themselves when full.
The first parks on the site may be completed by 2025, and some of the first residents may begin moving into housing in 2025 or 2026, though the total area may take 10 to 15 years to fully develop and transform. It’s one of several approaches to finding new use for former coal plants. Another coal plant not far away, on Lake Erie, is now a massive solar farm.