Redevelopment of Commercial Sites for Residential & Mixed Use

North America

Supporting the sustainable redevelopment and reclassification of commercial sites for residential use or mixed-use residential buildings (MURBs)

Population growth has created an increasing need for residential spaces, particularly in urban areas where the trend is densifying cities to improve their livability and affordability and, as such, is moving towards reducing greenspace encroachment and containing urban sprawl. As a result, redeveloping existing sites – such as commercial sites for residential use, including MURBs – is essential, especially from a sustainability perspective.


  • The Challenge

    Redeveloping a commercial property for residential use and MURBs involves multiple challenges:

    • Redevelopments have regulations that must be met in order to adapt a site, which often require environmental site assessments (ESAs) to determine the project’s environmental influence as well as the presence of environmental issues, such as potentially contaminating activities (PCAs)
    • Identifying and understanding subsurface environmental risks assumed during redevelopment
    • Designated substances, such as asbestos-containing materials, lead, mercury, silica, and PCBs, are often found in older existing buildings at proposed redevelopment sites
    • Historical land uses can introduce environmental concerns that must be addressed, such as contaminated soil, contaminated dewatering effluent, and soil vapor intrusion issues with underground levels
    • Adapting to new regulations regarding excess soil management, including finding a beneficial reuse for excess soils being excavated and removed from a former industrial/commercial site
  • Our Approach

    RWDI offers multi-disciplinary expertise in the redevelopment and reclassification of sites, especially regarding Phase 1 and 2 ESAs. A key aspect of this is ensuring property owners and developers understand the environmental risks linked to these sites – and can manage them. Through our services, we can:

    • Engage closely with developers to assist in effectively navigating applicable regulations
    • Collaborate with specialists and regulators to streamline the ESA process
    • Guide the search for historical environmental information, such as environmental compliance approvals (ECAs)
    • Leverage our multidisciplinary team to provide guidance on topics such as dewatering requirements, geophysical survey interpretation, and groundwater/surface water monitoring
    • Conduct a site investigation as per regulations to support filing a Record of Site Condition
    • Implement sampling/analysis programs to assess & address PCAs and areas of potential environmental concern (APECs)
    • Assess APECs and PCAs to uncover potential adverse effects on the site’s environmental quality
    • Assess the extent and nature of contamination to develop a remedial action plan
    • Launch analytical testing to verify contaminant concentration and compare to regulatory criteria
    • Develop conceptual site models (CSMs) to describe the site and areas where PCAs occurred
    • Spearhead remediation efforts, such as excavating soils impacted by electric conductivity (EC) and sodium absorption ratio (SAR), to improve the site’s environmental suitability
    • Conduct subsurface soil and groundwater assessments to uncover contaminants linked to APECs and determine their potential release
  • The Outcome

    RWDI’s team of multi-disciplinary experts leverages decades of experience to meet the challenges linked to redeveloping and reclassifying commercial sites for residential use and MURBs. Our successful track record includes completing Phase 1 and 2 ESAs to remain in compliance with the appropriate standards and regulations in the redevelopment jurisdiction. RWDI can interpret analytical data and compare results to the appropriate standards.

    These efforts contribute to the organization of ESA findings in a final report delivering recommendations on various options for remediation and/or adapting the design of the site (risk assessment) to allow for future reuse. The resulting robust ESA has many benefits, including helping the developer avoid costly treatment/clean-up costs, implementing cost-saving modifications in project design, preventing unscheduled project delays, and performing other project improvements.