A future-forward lifestyle marks the opportunity for Port Credit’s new, sustainable Brightwater community
Feature rendering Port Credit West Village Partners

A future-forward lifestyle marks the opportunity for Port Credit’s new, sustainable Brightwater community

Growing up in Port Credit, Christina Giannone vividly remembers the mysterious property located along Lakeshore Road between Mississauga Road and Pine Avenue. In the ‘90s, all she could see of the site was a barbed wire fence and an ominous “RESTRICTED ACCESS” sign. 

“No one had access to it, it was gated and parceled off,” she recalls.

Despite its closure in the early ‘80s, no one knew what to do with the languishing industrial site where a giant multi-domed refinery for Imperial Oil had pocked the city’s central lakefront. With the site’s long industrial history, rumours of contamination were widespread and many residents believed it was best left alone.


The Imperial Oil refinery where a new sustainable Port Credit community called Brightwater is being developed.

(City of Mississauga)

From the late 1800s, the Mississauga Road/Lakeshore site was home to the Nightingale Pressed Brick Company producing over 15,000 bricks a day which were used to build up much of the surrounding community. The material was extracted from a quarry near the lake which to this day remains as a shale pond.

Where Hurontario and Lakeshore Streets connect there was a starch plant and further east there was the giant “Four Sisters” Lakeview coal-fired power plant. 


In the late 1800s, early 1900s the lakeshore of Port Credit had a large brickworks yard.

(Mississauga Library System) 


But as Port Credit developed, the entire lifestyle of the waterfront enclave changed. From the pearl-grey smog and plumes of heavy industrial smoke, dirty industry gave way to street-corner shops, diners and the area’s early single-family houses. The village of Port Credit began to be reshaped.

Three decades after Giannone walked by the abandoned brownfields of the old Imperial Oil site, she would become a central player in her village’s transition to a sustainable future.

Giannone is the vice president of Brightwater Port Credit West Village Partners (PCWVP), the consortium behind the 72-acre site’s redevelopment, framed by Lakeshore Boulevard and Lake Ontario between Mississauga Road and Pine Avenue. 

Brightwater aims to accomplish something different. PCWVP wants to distance itself from the narrative of developers who disregard the consequences of blindly seeking profits from our land. Instead of squeezing every cent from the soil, contributing to destructive sprawl and unsustainable lifestyles, the group strives to build a community that is socially, economically and environmentally sustainable.


Brightwater will offer residents an active lifestyle along the waterfront without the need for constant car use.



“Seventy-two acres on the waterfront is not something that we take lightly. It's something that is a very serious endeavor. And it means creating a true community,” Giannone tells The Pointer. “What makes Port Credit special is you've got the proximity to Lake Ontario, and all the incredible waterfront parks that south Mississauga has. And so it was ‘How do you extend and develop this community into something that ties into that fabric?’”

Parkland is something that has been instrumental in the conceptualization of what the community will look like. Of the 72 acres, 18 are for greenspace, 25 percent of the total area. Green roofs will be featured atop buildings and over one-kilometre worth of green infrastructure will be populated by over 40 native plant species.

Each of the 18 buildings on site either border or are adjacent to a piece of parkland that not only adds to the tree canopy of the community, but also provides spaces for recreation. 

Out of the 24 neighbourhoods in Mississauga, Port Credit is on the higher end of parkland conveyance, already surpassing the City’s goal of 1.2 hectares per 1,000 residents in the majority of the outer neighbourhoods. Standing on the 14th floor of one of Brightwater’s future condos, looking northeast across Port Credit, the early spring covering from the surrounding trees offers a vision of what Brightwater hopes to enhance. The area’s natural beauty, with its string of waterfront parks and trails, opening up to the calming waters of Lake Ontario, was an inspiration to Brightwater’s planners. 

With Port Credit’s cherished features and fairytale homes trailing to the water, PCWVP never contemplated bulldozing the lands to cram in a development that would have felt out of place. Recreating the greenspaces long forgotten by residents like Giannone, who only ever knew the area as a relic of Port Credit’s industrial stretch, was a priority behind the plan to create an outdoor lifestyle, with active transportation in a walkable community that will be a mirror opposite of the sprawling, car clogged subdivisions that paved over most of the city a couple generations ago. The idea is to give the transformative waterfront, scarred for decades by industry, back to the people. And to help them change the way residents in Mississauga live. 

“Thinking about prioritizing pedestrians, and active mobility, that was part of it. So getting people out of cars, and encouraging people by giving them safe spaces to actually walk, ride their bike, anything to get people out of their cars,” was the vision, Giannone says.

It’s a philosophy that former mayor Bonnie Crombie brought with her a decade ago, when she took over from Hazel McCallion and began to rethink the lifestyle her city afforded its residents. 

“We were a suburban enclave, a suburban town where executives lived in four-bedroom, picket fence single lot homes. Large homes and wide boulevards,” Crombie told The Pointer before stepping down, recalling the Mississauga of the past.

“I've lived in some great cities,” she said, explaining where her ideas for a more sustainable, community-oriented city came from. “I studied in Paris. I've lived in Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Vancouver. I've seen density at its best, and people enjoy it. There's a certain dynamic and vibrancy in more dense neighbourhoods.”


Former Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie for a decade pushed more density so residents could live, work and play in walkable communities, like Brightwater. 

(Renderings of Brightwater by PCWVP) 


She told The Pointer that plans like Brightwater were what the future Mississauga would be shaped by. 

“People want to be near people, people want to sit on their porch and watch people walk by, want to walk their dog at night and wave at their neighbours. People want to be able to buy a jug of milk at the corner store and that just wasn't the case in Mississauga because of the design,” she said. “People want more density. They want to live near their neighbours and we need to accommodate more growth and more housing [in that model].

“So it struck me that we needed to build an all inclusive community, a complete community. So when we were designing zoning like Lakeview, Brightwater, even the Ninth Line lands, we were talking about complete communities.”

Brightwater blends the “complete community” concept Crombie described—allowing residents to easily walk or bike to all the features and amenities they need in 15 minutes—with sustainable engineering and direct access to vital outdoor spaces.

Especially during the summer months, Port Credit and its waterfront is filled with residents, tourists and families drawn to a village within the city.

Even with Crombie’s push to reduce minimum parking requirements, and Brightwater’s vision of active transportation supported by urban planning and design, the car could not be completely ignored. But PCWVP are doing everything they can with implementation to design for more sustainable transportation, drawing residents and visitors to spaces where vehicles are not accommodated as seamlessly as they were for most of Mississauga’s history. Parking for Brightwater is provided almost solely underground, eliminating wasted space, eschewing sprawling lots where space can instead be used for outdoor recreation and greenery while maximizing the amount of land that can be spared for other lifestyle-defining uses.

The developers have poured in additional funds to provide car sharing services and an electric shuttle for residents that will transport them from Brightwater to the Port Credit GO station and back, about a two-kilometre loop. The community will also be serviced by additional MiWay transit stops.

“We have an opportunity to really build a community, but what does that future thinking community look like? And that was really what inspired these ideas,” Giannone says. “[It’s about] thinking how people can live in a community in a smart and sustainable way.”


One kilometre of low-impact development bioswales line the streets to filter stormwater before it enters Lake Ontario.

(Port Credit West Village Partners)


Some of the most innovative features in Brightwater will be underground. Planners designed foundations of buildings where crevices already existed from the site’s extraction history and along the roads that slope toward Lake Ontario, bioswale infrastructure has been constructed to properly control stormwater as part of a sophisticated water protection plan. 

Bioswales mimic natural ecological systems to filter water before it enters back into natural watercourses. The bioswales are part of a layered system which sit a couple of feet into the ground, but from the surface they appear to be narrow rows of natural vegetation that change with the seasons.

When rainwater falls onto the vegetation and into the soil toxins and pollutants such as road salt and other contaminants are filtered and removed naturally before running through underground pipes that empty into Lake Ontario.

“How do we slow it down? How do we, as much as possible, reuse that water in an environmentally friendly way, so that it naturally uses it and slows down the pace so that it's not exerting too much,” Giannone asks rhetorically. “We are trying to minimize the impact on the entire municipal system.”

Traditional stormwater systems that use sewer grates, which are noticeable on almost any city street, do not provide the same levels of filtration and send large volumes of contaminants into bodies of water. A previous investigation by The Pointer of the 11 monitoring stations maintained by the Credit Valley Conservation Authority found concentration levels of chloride, a component of road salt, at the majority of the stations were above those that could cause acute harm to aquatic life.

For decades, governments have monitored the contamination of the Great Lakes which serve as a drinking water source for approximately 40 million people — 10 percent of the population of the United States and almost 30 percent of Canada. 

It was a part of life that was disconcerting for Ward 1 Councillor Stephen Dasko growing up. 

“[Water is] beyond important to me, it's at the essence of life. And so, clean water really is your quality of life,” Port Credit’s Ward 1 Councillor Stephen Dasko, who is running to replace Crombie as mayor, told The Pointer. 


Water in Lake Ontario is often unsuitable for activities due to high levels of pollutants and bacteria.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)


The bioswale system being constructed by PCWVP is one of the largest of its kind in North America, putting Port Credit on the map as a model for other cities.

“Even though it took us a lot longer time, and at a higher cost to us as developers in the project, now that the bioswale system has been engineered, now that the we created new standards of right of ways in the city of Mississauga that can be more easily duplicated across the rest of the city, and so on future phases, that's something that can probably be done in a more effective way,” Giannone says.  

Kilmerin Infrastructure, the engineering firm working with Brightwater on the development, estimates that the total cost of the bioswale system, including design, is about $8 million.

Giannone says these sustainability measures may not enhance profit (costs that often cannot be passed onto buyers) but they add a different kind of value that is critical to PCWVP’s vision.

“It's not necessarily the profitability, but it's the value proposition. People want to see that they're making smart decisions, and that there are opportunities to buy and live in a community that really will take them through that 21st century and going forward.” 

While the whole project will not be completed to full occupancy for about a decade, there are some residents living in the first buildings constructed, with some retail scheduled to open this summer.

Growing up in Port Credit, Giannone knows the area has a special appeal, and the lifestyle of many locals is not the same as some who live in other parts of the city.

“There's obviously sensitivities around growth from a housing standpoint. And so we worked with the community, when we were developing the master plan — we actually took inspiration from fittingly a master plan document that the community worked with the city on called Inspiration Port Credit … basically a framework for what would they want to see at we're now Brightwater is if it were to be developed,” she says. “And so we took inspiration from that document to create what Brightwater would become.”


Once complete, the entire 72-acre property will provide housing, commercial and recreational facilities.

(Port Credit West Village Partners)


While the Doug Ford PC government has pushed more sprawl across the province, even secretly attempting to pave over parts of the protected Greenbelt for large, detached family homes nowhere near public transit, Mississauga is trying to do the opposite, planning for density where it makes most sense.

Crombie used her strong mayor powers right before stepping down to lead the Ontario Liberal Party, helping push a previously defeated motion brought forward by progressive Councillor Alvin Tedjo, who is also running to replace the former mayor. The resolution allows the creation of quad-plexes on existing home lots across the city, a model that can be seen in Brightwater’s plan, which, along with apartment-style condos, features townhomes, as part of the “complete community” concept that promotes density and active transportation, while limiting accommodation for cars.

Giannone hopes PCWVP can provide a model for more sustainable development across the city, and beyond. Brightwater’s District Energy system will be a big part of that.

The low-carbon engineering distributes thermal energy across Brightwater’s physical footprint, with heating and cooling through a network of pipes that send natural heat from surrounding organic sources into buildings and use the lake’s cold water for cooling.

Brightwater is a source of pride for Dasko who is a proponent of district energy as a sustainable way forward. The councillor, who also sits on the board of the Credit Valley Conservation Authority and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, said sustainability should be at the heart of future planning.

“You should be able to walk along the lakeshore to the waterfront, put your toes in the water, and launch your kayak. These are things that we should all be doing,” he said. 

The councillor, who also grew up in the Port Credit neighbourhood, echoed Giannone’s description of how much the community has changed from a collection of factories serviced by industrial shipping to a major tourist destination for the city, largely because of its lush, tree-filled parks, extensive waterfront trails and inviting lakeshore.

“We've actually got to the point where we're reconnecting everybody to the lake, we don't have that kind of industrial waterfront past where we're blocked off by fences and barbed wire with power plants and oil refineries,” he said. “And it's doing this by balancing growth with environmental protection and sustainability. And we've done it all collaboratively. That's the real exciting part of what we've been able to accomplish here.”



Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @rachelnadia_

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