Master Plan for the Development of Pointe-Gatineau and Lac-Beauchamp Vacant Lands

Case-Study | juillet 26, 2021

Climate emergencies are one of the most pressing realities facing Canadian communities today. The number, intensity, duration and frequency of extreme weather events, such as flooding, wildfire and wind, are drastically increasing across Canada – as are the strain and health impacts on those living and working in high-risk areas.


Between 2010 and 2020, the five most destructive floods in Canada’s history were recorded, with hundreds of thousands of people impacted. These highly destructive floods included the 2013 floods in Alberta and Toronto and the 2011 flood in Manitoba. The estimated recorded damages for the five floods totalled almost 1.5 billion dollars. According to the Canadian Disaster Database, the number of floods that can be classified as “disaster floods” have been increasing every decade for the past century and Canadians lack the information needed to understand the risk. A 2016 flood risk assessment estimated that over 20% of Canadian homes are at a high risk of flooding, while 10% are considered “very high risk.” Floodsmart Canada estimates that only 6% of Canadians living in high risk zones are aware of the risk and only 30% of Canadians are taking actions to protect themselves and their property.

The residents of Pointe-Gatineau and Lac-Beauchamp experienced the realities of the disastrous floods, not once, but twice. In 2017 and 2019, rising spring temperatures, high rainfall and snowmelt contributed to months-long flooding, evacuating thousands of residents and causing irreversible damage to the two communities. After the second flood destroyed and displaced many residents, the City of Gatineau found itself with more than 100 residential plots of land ceded to the municipality under one of the measures established by the Zone d’Intervention speciale (ZIS) decreed by the Government of Quebec. By May 2021, that number had increased to 144 parcels. In 2019, the City of Gatineau called for the development of a master plan for the development of vacant lots within Pointe-Gatineau and Lac-Beauchamp.



Although the vacant lots within these communities are located in high-risk flood zones and the ZIS forbids reconstruction of the flood-damaged structures for now, these lots now have the potential to serve the community in new ways.

“It might take more than master plans to heal from these types of events, however, this project gives residents hope and re-enforces communal resilience, promotes better community outreach and gives meaning to what can be accomplished if we work together,” says Mélanie Sarazin, from the Integrated urban revitalization of Old Gatineau.

Distinct in geography and demographics, these two communities have banded together to bring about a new vision for the future of their communities – a shared and innovative master plan proposal for the repurposing of the vacant lots into vibrant and resilient public spaces.

Project Context

The City of Gatineau, in collaboration with the Regional Council for the Environment and Sustainable Development of the Outaouais (CREDDO), Park People and design firm, Mandaworks, worked together over 18 months to develop a proposed Master Plan for the at-risk river-adjacent districts. The Pointe-Gatineau and Lac-Beauchamps districts are in the traditional territory of the St. Lawrence Iroquoians, Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ, Mohawk and Omàmìwininìwag (Algonquin) peoples and are situated on the shores of the Ottawa River. Both districts have long histories in the area, having been settled in the early 1820s and were significant contributors to Canada’s early fur and lumber trade activity.

The Ottawa River is known as one of the “great rivers of the continent”. It originates approximately 250km north of Ottawa, in the Region of Outaouais. The river runs 1,271 km into the St. Lawrence River, where the watershed is 146,300 km2 and is geographically larger than the country of Switzerland.

The fate of the Pointe-Gatineau and Lac-Beauchamp districts were intertwined through the traumatic floods of 2017 and 2019. Already situated on well-known flood plains, they have been victims of a warming climate, leading to increased rainfall and early spring snowmelt. In 2017, over more than a month, the heavy spring rainfall coupled with melting snow led to water levels three metres higher than the seasonal norm, leading to the worst flooding seen in decades. Just two years later, in April 2019, a similar fate descended on the area. Heavy rainfall and melting snowpack flooded the Ottawa river, leading to a state of emergency and record-breaking river heights.

For many residents, the mental, physical and financial strain of living through a flood would linger for years to come.

Myriam Nadeau, Municipal Councillor for Pointe-Gatineau, Ville de Gatineau, said of an area hit twice by catastrophic floods in just under two years: “In the short term, people want to know “how do we recover?” and in the long term, they realize that this is a force of nature that we can’t control. Residents shift their narrative from “help me guard my house” to “help me leave.”



The flooding of the river on both occasions, and its impact on Pointe-Gatineau and Lac-Beauchamp residents, represented individual and collective loss. The loss of neighbours, and the loss of trust in the land on which they reside.

“Healing will take many years and the fact that another flood could come every spring keeps people fearful,” says Mélanie. This project provided an opportunity for both communities to come together and create something beautiful and resilient in these spaces – and possibly start to heal together.

The Project

There is a long history that ties the people to the water and the land in these communities. Residents have a strong sense of pride in their hometown.

In reflecting on the floods of 2017 and 2019, Madame Myriam Nadeau, municipal councillor for Pointe-Gatineau said “at that point, I wasn’t their councillor. I was their neighbour. We helped each other out and we were working together to survive.”

Residents and businesses alike, where flooding damage was estimated at less than 50% of their property value, have been able to rebuild – with the knowledge that the realities of the 2017 and 2019 floods could happen again at any moment.

District Descriptions

Pointe Gatineau and Lac-Beauchamp are both river adjacent districts and sit within the City of Gatineau. Demographically, Pointe-Gatineau consists of middle-class, single-family residential homes and suburban-style communities. Lac-Beauchamp is home to a mix of commercial and low-income residential communities with a higher number of rentals and multi-unit apartments. After the 2019 flood, residents from both communities ceded a total of over 100 lots to the City of Gatineau. Many of these lots were connected, making for large swaths and puzzle pieces of abandoned streetscapes.

For residents, the ongoing ripple effects of the floods continue to influence daily life. In the midst of the floods, communities banded together through protection and evacuation efforts, such as hauling sandbanks to protect houses and helping in the evacuation of their neighbours. In the aftermath of the floods, some residents started to build back, and a strong sense of community and care guided their efforts. But in the intervening years, the long-term implications of other homes not being rebuilt can’t be ignored. Residential neighbourhoods are now defined by the number of houses and vacant lots standing empty. In some areas, large portions of some communities (such as those of Ruisseau and Notre-dame) have been ceded to the city. Both community advocates and political allies wanted to bring vibrancy and a sense of community to these districts through this project. 

The project presented here details the development of a master plan for the vacant lots in Pointe-Gatineau and Lac-Beauchamp. At this stage, the development of these vacant lots is still a vision for the future, and the proposed master plan development aims to work with citizens, community organizations and local government to define the different land-use typologies, which will feed into a longer-term action plan.

The transition from design to implementation will depend heavily on the commitment of local government through continued citizen engagement, financing and the operationalizing of the master plan in the coming years.

Project Background

Pointe-Gatineau’s municipal councillor, Madame Myriam Nadeau, championed this project at City Council, while residents banded together at a community level. In Lac-Beauchamp, the Integrated Urban Revitalization program (RUI) started hosting informal meetings around the opportunity to develop the vacant lots as community spaces. In 2019, two sites were transformed by local residents and RUI. In Pointe-Gatineau, exploratory walks and consultations were led by Madame Nadeau, leading to the creation of a citizen committee, CRIC, which transformed one lot in 2020 by adding a parklet and community gardens. The City of Gatineau then moved forward with a formal scope of work for developing a master plan to revitalize the two districts. This contract was given to the Regional Council for the Environment and Sustainable Development of the Outaouais (CREDDO).

Laurence Coulombe, CREDDO’s Coordinator for climate change adaptation, took on the lead role on this project. In order to realize the project’s objectives, CREDDO invited Park People to collaborate with them, the two organizations becoming the project leads. The expertise of urban design studio Mandaworks was then added to this leadership team. Next, CREDDO created, coordinated and animated the working group committee, a central part of the project that was made up of local municipal councillors, residents, community organizations and supporting partners who all have a vested interest in this project. Finally, CREDDO managed stakeholder consultation, maintained the relationship with the City of Gatineau, and supported the development of a common vision. Finally, CREDDO oversaw the defining of the planning strategies and implementation of the master plan, rallying both the municipality and citizens to get involved.

Laurence outlines CREDDO’s role in the project: “CREDDO was able to move the project forward by bringing together different local actors and experts.”

Caroline Magar, Manager of Quebec Development and Park People project lead, adds:

“As a project partner, Park People had the opportunity to complement CREDDO’s local expertise and strengths in community engagement by providing strategic support throughout every step of the process.”

Park People was able to offer a unique lens as a non-profit organization focused on improving people’s quality of life through parks and urban green spaces. Park People was also able to provide an innovative perspective to evaluate and leverage the social and environmental roles of urban parks and how to leverage them in the context of community change and crisis. Finally, Park People supported CREDDO’s agile consultation process, creating consultation tools, designing and leading the final community workshop, and supporting CREDDO with the production of the final report and project visuals, alongside urban design studio Mandaworks.

Project Process

The development of the Pointe-Gatineau and Lac-Beauchamp vacant lands Master Plan was presented to the local council in summer 2021. The project spanned a total of 18 months and consisted of three key phases and a series of key project components.

  • Phase 1: Preparatory Study (January - April 2020)
    Key tasks included: Understanding of needs and visions of the community and stakeholders and conducting a geophysical and social study of the area.
  • Phase 2: Project Conceptualization (May - September 2020)
    • Key tasks included: The development of the land use planning options, preliminary sketches and schematic plans of the tools and toolbox and a feedback process.
  • Phase 3 Comprehensive plans (October 2020 - May 2021):
    • Key tasks included: Defining development and implementation strategies, prioritization and plans for lots and the cost estimate and proposal for implementation and operationalization.

A detailed visual outline of the master plan development process

Key Project Elements

To implement this phased approach, key project elements included:

  • Stakeholder consultation:: Highly iterative, the community engagement plan included multiple opportunities for in-person and online feedback supported by an iterative and co-creative design process.
  • Collaborative Decision Making: The working group, consisting of a project manager (CREDDO), local elected officials, city staff, citizen representatives, local community organizations and subject matter experts in community engagement / participatory planning and landscape architecture. The group was formed to represent these communities and interested parties. CREDDO and Park People worked with the City of Gatineau to put forth this proposed master plan and set of land-use strategies, developed with a dedication to moving from ideas to action. 
  • Communications and Outreach: A comprehensive communication strategy included newsletter updates, local signage, suggestion boxes, information kiosks, phone calls, web updates and in-person and online surveys, which supported the required COVID-19 pandemic shift from in-person to virtual engagement in March of 2020.
  • Toolbox of land use planning optionsThe City of Gatineau district Master Plan proposes a series of integrated surface development solutions to increase the climate resilience of the landscape and improve local quality of life. These land-use planning options were presented as a series of “tools'' within a “toolbox” that illustrate development possibilities that respond to the needs expressed by residents and stakeholders and are feasible within the regulatory context. The 25 unique lot typologies are assessed, prioritized and assigned based on the social and environmental needs of the individual lots and surrounding community and presented to be democratically governed. 
  • Transition to action and implementation: To support the transition from a vision to an implementation plan, while building stakeholder capacity, three key resources were created to complement the toolbox:
    • Highly visual information sheets for each typology to inspire residents and government and outline opportunities for implementation.
    • A prioritization plan to easily detail short, medium and long-term lot activation opportunities.
    • A detailed plan to match lot and prioritized typologies, including specific characteristics and constraints (sun and shade, access to water sources, relationship to the street, proximity to people's homes, etc.). 
Project Outcomes

Both districts have experienced extreme trauma and long-lasting social, mental and physical pain and have a shared desire to bring back a sense of place and community and work together to heal. Centring innovative and community-centric approaches, the consultation strategy and master plan have the potential to support local communities and the City of Gatineau to recover from the recent floods thanks to public space improvements that respond to their needs and make their communities more resilient in the event of future flooding. This revitalization strategy will not just enhance community resilience, but will also provide more tools to cities facing the realities of unavoidable future climate emergencies - setting a Canadian precedent by demonstrating how private land ceded to the municipal government can be reinvested in and reappropriated by communities, to create resilient parks and community spaces for a changing climate. 

Spotlight: Two districts and a country at risk

For those living and working in high flood risk areas, such as the residents of Pointe-Gatineau and Lac-Beauchamp, the increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events, a lack of accurate and publicly available flood mapping, as well as a siloed approach to emergency preparedness and management, have negatively impacted the districts’ flood preparedness and the residents who call these districts home.

The Intact Centre for Climate Adaptation released a provincial preparedness report to document flood preparedness across Canada, based on the four pillars of emergency management: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. These four pillars are then supported by key criteria (such as floodplain mapping, land use planning, emergency management). Individual provinces/territories self-assess through extensive interviews based on these criteria.

Based on these self-assessments, the Canadian score on flood preparedness for 2019 is a C, an increase from a C- in 2016, while Quebec’s current flood preparedness grade is on average, at a C. Quebec scores above average in many areas, although is significantly under the regional average in emergency management. Areas of weakness across the province include land use planning, new development projects and critical infrastructure assessment.



After the floods of 2017 and 2019, the Quebec government established special intervention zones (ZIS). 776 municipalities are protected by the ZIS which “establishes a moratorium on the construction of buildings and on the reconstruction of buildings destroyed by a flood.” This initiative will continue to support and promote continued rigorous flood management zones and is a step in the right direction.

The Intact report identifies three areas that require improvement to increase the level of Canada-wide flood preparedness; land use planning, critical infrastructure assessment and public health and safety. Currently, provincial and territorial governments are generally not required to identify floodplains within their districts. Accurate, up-to-date, user-friendly and publicly available flood risk maps hold critical information. This information can promote better public awareness about flood risk, help individuals make informed decisions about where to live, identify threats to critical infrastructure and help governments in building flood preparedness measures in their jurisdictions. In Canada, there is a lack of publicly available flood-risk maps. This means that residents, businesses and governments have no conceptual understanding of imminent flood risk and cannot adequately prepare.

In Canada, 90% of extreme weather events and natural disasters, including floods, are managed at a local level, with some provincial/territorial management. Flood preparedness and management generally occur at the municipal level in Quebec. Unfortunately, a river as long and large as the Ottawa River will pass through many municipalities before reaching the watershed. The decisions and actions of upstream municipalities may greatly impact the downstream municipalities.

Municipalities across Canada are working to shift to a multi-municipal scale approach to flood management, which would encompass upstream and downstream municipalities and reduce inefficient silos within governments.

Natural flood management can include making space for waterways by limiting development and incorporating bio-diverse and natural elements in otherwise “grey” infrastructure.

“Canada is starting to experience the same evolution that we have already seen in Europe and the US, from traditional flood-defence and control towards natural flood management – working with and valuing natural processes,” says Intact Centre’s Joanna Eyquem, Director of Climate Programs for Quebec.

Other options include building infrastructure designed to flood, such as parks and playgrounds. All in all Canada’s flood preparedness has progressed - but slowly. The reduction of flood risk is not only the role of governments. Everyone has a role to play in changing the way we live with, and prepare for, flooding – whether this be from rivers or from intense rainfall. Action is required at different scales, from homeowners undertaking simple actions around the house to reduce basement flood risk, to the strategic use of natural infrastructure to slow, store and soak up water to ensure the realities faced by Pointe-Gatineau and Lac-Beauchamp citizens in 2017 and 2019 isn’t repeated.

Project Pillars

Community-First Engagement

The community engagement for this project was delivered in three phases.

In developing and delivering the community engagement plan, the working group centred on a “not for me, without me” approach. As Mélanie Sarazin, working group lead for the RUI stated, “Our community engagement strategy is putting the community in the center of everything that we do.”

The project leads then developed a series of consultation tools for the three phases of the project alongside a broader communications strategy. The engagement plan provided the public with opportunities to give their input on the big-picture vision, the specific proposed revitalization strategies, and implementation, and included both in-person and online opportunities for design and project feedback. A comprehensive communications strategy included tactics such as creating a simple project pamphlet for distribution and awareness building through a monthly email and newsletter to keep people in the loop. Online opportunities for feedback were encouraged and the group leveraged the CREDDO website to post updates and keep interested parties up to date.

“What was exciting about this process was that it was done in collaboration with a range of different people from the community - including those who were flooded, those that live here but weren’t flooded, business, organizations, the municipality, and more. Everyone was a part of the process, everyone was considered an expert in their own right and their opinion was valued” says Mélanie about the consultation process.

The project leads, advised by the working group members, also went the extra distance to make sure as many people as possible were aware of the project and had an opportunity to have their voices heard. This more personalized approach included personal phone calls, using billboards and public bulletin boards to promote the project or specific consultations, as well good old-fashioned knocking on doors. Lac-Beauchamp even leveraged their secret weapon – Edward. In the Lac-Beauchamp community, if you wanted something to be known, you made sure Edward knew about it and he would spread the word through the community faster than any newsletter or email chain could.

In March of 2020, COVID-19 roared into reality and demanded a quick and agile response from the project leads. Through the first few months of COVID-19, they were forced to slow down and reassess their approach due to a complete shift to remote and virtual work. Thanks to the iterative and agile project approach taken by the working group, the project quickly switched to online consultations and virtual working group meetings. The second phase of consultation (summer 2020) was rooted in a rich suite of online content (including detailed visuals and explanatory videos) and on-the-ground informational tools (printed information boards were installed for a month in each neighbourhood, and printed questionnaires were distributed with a drop off box for submission). The planned format for the third phase of consultation was modified into a co-creation workshop that focused community engagement energy on developing ideas for the implementation of the plan.

Project Champions

A central aspect of the project included the creation of a working group. Leveraged to ensure broad community engagement and proper buy-in from the right stakeholders, the working group represented local government, residents, community organizations and supporting partners. The Working Group committee met six times throughout the project timeline to monitor the progress and process of the project.

Project Leads:

  • Laurence Coulombe (CREDDO - coordinator)
  • Caroline Magar (Consultant in participatory planning, Amis des parcs / Park People)
  • Manon Otto (Designer, MANDAWORKS Design Studio)

Working Group Members included:

  • Benoit Delage (CREDDO - Executive Director)
  • Myriam Nadeau (Ville de Gatineau - municipal councillor of Pointe-Gatineau)
  • Jean-François Leblanc (the City of Gatineau - municipal councillor of Lac-Beauchamp)
  • Magdalena Dudek (Ville de Gatineau - service center)
  • Catherine Marchand (Ville de Gatineau - Urban planning and sustainable development department)
  • Suzie Perreault (Citizen of Pointe-Gatineau)
  • Mélanie Sarazin (Integrated urban revitalization of Old Gatineau)
  • Gille Delaunais, Direction de santé publique de l'Outaouais - Agente de planification, programmation et recherche Santé environnementale
  • Gille Delaunais (Direction de santé publique de l'Outaouais - Agente de planification, programmation et recherche Santé environnementale)  
  • Josée Charlebois, (Agente de planification, de programmation et de recherche Responsable de la coordination professionnelle, Direction de santé publique, Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l'Outaouais).

Working group member categories:

  • 1 Project Lead
  • 1 Director of the local environmental council
  • 2 x Local Elected Officials
  • 2 x City Staff
  • 2 x Citizen Representatives
  • 2 x Local Community Orgs
  • 2 x Experts (1 in community engagement / participatory planning, 1 designer)
  • 2 x local Public Health experts

The working group represents a particularly successful component of the project. The ability to work with different municipal and regional actors, city staff, community organizations and residents enabled greater buy-in from the get-go and access to the right people at the right time.

Arriving at a Solution

This master development plan is a great innovation for regional planning in a climate change context since it involves a participatory design process where the city and its citizens find solutions adapted to their needs and to the context.

The final outcome of the 18-month process, which included 3 public consultations, 6 working group meetings, 1 toolbox, 3 development strategies, implementation recommendations and ongoing collaboration, was presented to the City of Gatineau and the public in July 2021. 


Lot prioritization plans for Lac-Beauchamp and Pointe-Gatineau.


Given the hydrological, social and regulatory realities of the neighbourhoods, which remain exposed to flooding risk as well as ongoing climate and social challenges, the vulnerabilities of the resident communities and the resulting devitalization of their neighbourhood spaces, the project leads created a strategy that would incorporate more natural settings and incorporate a gradual retreat of the human presence on these flood plains. The plan is grounded in an adaptation approach, which will enable local residents to reside in a more resilient natural and social environment. 

Proposed vision for development

“The proposed vision does not follow a traditional approach to flood protection, but instead focuses on adaptation to recurrent flooding in the context of gradual managed retreat, aiming to mitigate the health impacts of flooding through community revitalization.” p. 33 of the final report.


A vision for an integrated environmental and social master plan.

In support of this adaptive approach, the Master Plan for the development of the vacant lots was presented to and approved by the City of Gatineau in summer 2021 as a land-use planning toolbox. The toolbox contains 25 land use typologies for individual lots across the two communities, within five land use categories (or families) - Nature lots, Nourishing lots, Gathering lots, Riverside lots and Sponge lots. These categories represent the major strategic directions of the master plan and reflect both regulatory requirements and resident needs identified through the consultations Each represents a different use and activation approach. These typologies are assessed for fit, prioritized and assigned to vacant lots within each district, based on the social and environmental needs of the immediate community. They can be implemented independently, mixed or designed for multiple connected lots. They have been designed to inspire residents and government alike and open the door to a more diverse and resilient future.

Lot typology categories.

There are 25 lot typologies within 5 categories, including:

  • Nature lots: Consisting of lots that provide space for nature to thrive. Options include pollinator lots, meadows and wooded areas.
  • Nourishing lots: Consisting of lots that provide for both residents and nature. These include fruit trees, urban farming and greenhouse lots.
  • Gathering lots: Consisting of lots that provide opportunities for social gathering. Options include community tables, places for play (basketball courts), amphitheatre, community art and dog parks.
  • Lots onshore: Consisting of lots that integrate water and land. These lots include river terraces, basin drainage lots and bridging lots.
  • Sponge sets: Consisting of lots that provide ecological opportunities. These lots include hydrophile plants.

25 lot typologies by category.

The project leads took into consideration the unique needs of the situation. Considering the project spans 2 districts and over 100 lots, both the community and the working group knew that a blanket approach wouldn’t work. Each lot and the surrounding communities would require a specific-to-place and purpose application. Instead of producing a “one-size-fits-all” master plan that is so often leveraged in these projects, the working group instead presented the community with a “toolbox” of options.

The working group suggested lot typologies based on the needs of the community identified in early public consultation activities. These activities identified core community concerns around future flooding, lack of green space, food insecurity, lack of biodiversity and a need for programs to encourage neighbours to come together.

Community members agreed with this approach and appreciated the care that went into each lot typology: 

  • "Prioritize the lots that will have long-term benefits for the environment, there is a lack of these spaces in Gatineau. The nature lots serve as a playground for children where the imagination and outdoor activities spring, while improving the health of people and other species."
  • "Your categories are great. incorporating any of them would be great."
  • "Great initiative, I am really happy to see this kind of development in my neighbourhood!"
  • "Take into account the types of households near the landscaped area. No basketball court if the number of children/teenagers near the walk (500m) does not justify it"
    (anonymous quotes from the consultations)

The initial structure of the toolbox was inspired by the needs of the community. Feeding lots would provide access to community garden options and reduce food insecurity, whereas gathering lots could bring people together and enhance local social connection and sponge lots would increase access to green spaces, provide biodiverse areas and support flood mitigation. Nature lots supported a community need for more natural areas and lots onshore recognized a need to integrate community spaces with river-adjacent lots. This would encourage a better relationship between the community and the river.

The working group then evaluated each lot using the following prioritization criteria:

Lot prioritization criteria.


Each lot was then assigned suggested and prioritized lot typology.


Prioritized lots and suggested priority lot typologies.

The project tools and the lot typology toolbox are presented to support a combined implementation approach that would include lots activated and implemented by the city, but primarily, this is a community tool. The toolbox is a community tool to support and encourage community groups and members to activate the lots within their neighbourhoods.

“One primary goal of the project was to elevate and inspire momentum so people take action. It was really just about giving a nudge to the city and community and inspiring them to take action through the tools that we’ve created together,” says Manon Otto.

Each lot has been assessed for the prioritization criteria and the information has been presented in a highly visual and community-centric tool.

Typology Information Sheet.

Typology Information Sheet.

Community members will be able to access the lot toolbox and the prioritization work to understand what typology will work best for the empty lot in their neighbourhood and, the hope is, the City of Gatineau will support a community-level approach and remove barriers to activation.

In arriving at the solution, working group members drew heavily from the key approaches they have used throughout the project – agility, flexibility and community first - to design a unique and innovative approach - and continued to iterate throughout the process.

Manon Otto, from MANDAWORKS, outlined the need for an approach that could be adopted by community members and the City of Gatineau alike; “Instead of being one proposal with one story, it evolved into becoming this much more granular set of interventions. It actually didn't make sense to have one static proposal with a clear phasing because it's not going to be implemented by one actor, it's going to be implemented by multiple actors both coming from the city side and by some local families or some local community groups. So we needed to harvest their energy and their interest for the project by providing a toolbox that is totally democratic that they can project themselves in, and love.”


A vision for the future.

Although the vacant lots within the Pointe-Gatineau and Lac-Beauchamp communities are located in high-risk flood zones and the residential homes will not be rebuilt as before, these lots now have the potential to serve the community in new ways.

From Design to Implementation

The working group has leveraged a unique prioritization approach to assess and evaluate the individual lots and transition the project from “wish-list” to reality. The land use toolbox and development plans provide the City of Gatineau with courses of action for implementation, including preliminary cost analysis, a list of priority lots for redevelopment. It also includes success measures for overall implementation as well as for assessing the effectiveness of implementation in meeting the needs of different key stakeholders such as community members and municipal divisions.

The next big hurdle to overcome is the shift from design to implementation.

CREDDO and key municipal partners in the working group hope to collaborate with different levels of government to support project implementation. Elements of the next phase include sourcing financial support and resourcing, continued engagement with the communities and the ongoing support of the city. The shift from a one-size-fits-all master plan, to a series of implementable lot typologies, presents unique opportunities, as well as unique challenges. The working group is working with the city to encourage a willingness to implement gradual activities that will support ongoing stimulation, strengthening, and community spaces. Additional levers for implementation could include hiring a community animator to manage lot activation, the removal or adaptation of government barriers to community implementation and an intentional, city-wide activation program.

 You can learn more about the success factors for implementation starting on page 56 of the master plan

Project Learnings

Pillars for Success

A planning process such as this relies on a few key elements to ensure success. In the execution of a similar project, future projects could center a selection of the following pillars for success:

  • A Thoughtful and Empathetic Community-First Approach: The trauma experienced by post-flood communities meant that the project and outcomes needed to be appropriate and put forthwith care. In future projects, project members should leverage a compassionate, co-creative and participatory engagement approach to center the community in the decision-making process. This may require a multi-modal engagement approach, including:
    • Both in-person and online feedback opportunities,
    • Different tools for different audiences, including physical and online tools for input and information sharing, signage, formal and informal engagement approaches, explanatory videos, phone calls and local partners on the ground,
    • A comprehensive communications strategy,
    • An efficient, yet forward-thinking, timeline.
  • Iterative and Agile Project Delivery: Integrating an agile approach to the project will require a working group that is hands-on, actively engaged with the project and willing to be flexible. Assume, value and clarify the benefits of an iterative process from the project kickoff. Set up weekly short touch-base meetings with the core management group to stay connected throughout the project. Plan ahead and stick to the plan, while allowing for a certain level of agility and flexibility. Being able to work on the fly isn’t always easy - but will make for a better final outcome.
  • A tight-knit working group: A working group represents the interests and perspectives of the important parties. In building a working group, it is important to have a cross-section of representatives that include community members to represent the residential and commercial perspectives, forward-thinking community organizations to push the work forward, city staff to provide a realistic perspective of what can be done and how quickly and subject matter experts to support a well-informed project outcome. Openness and engagement of a diverse set of stakeholders from the beginning contributed to the quality of the initial design. In building a working group, identity:
    • Local residents and community organizations: Bring together individuals who are actively connected to the local community and can represent both a resident, environmental and commercial lens. It is important to ensure there is a diversity of voices at the table. If this project has elements that require representation from vulnerable groups, such as the homeless, or if the land holds Indigenous significance, these communities should be at the decision-making table.
    • Government: Government should be engaged at a political level, such as municipal councillors or MP’s, as well as city staff, to support regulatory conditions and generate buy-in from day 1. Keep in mind that city staff and the political side of government move at different speeds. Political stakeholders are motivated by big picture objectives, while civil service is defined by limited capacity and layered responsibilities. Reconciling these two perspectives may be a challenging, but necessary part of the process.
    • Unique to project experts: In this project, public health representatives, flood experts and forestry researchers were engaged to represent the unique needs of this project and area.
  • Trust: As a project with heavily involved stakeholders and a tight timeline, there is a need to establish a climate of trust between stakeholders right from the beginning - and keep generating trust through the good and the challenging. In this respect, the project leads had to demonstrate a nuanced understanding of the existing tensions between municipal elected officials (political vision) and the public service (a technical and regulatory vision), and guarantee continuous open conversation in order to enable constructive dialogue. The project leads took on a mediating role in reconciling the needs and capacities of community organizations and divisions of the public service. Several additional meetings and discussions were added to the preliminary phase of work, providing an opportunity for contributors to feel heard and enabled the process to move forward cohesively. A democratic working environment, where everyone has a voice and an opportunity to actively listen to others, is vital in this process. 
  • Building Resiliency: More and more cities will be required to work through situations such as these. Cities need to support and build resilience in their residents, infrastructure, practices and policies to better respond and be better prepared in the face of the major challenges that await us. In building a similar project, strategically identify and engage the experts and stakeholders needed to support this project at all phases - design, implementation and execution. Securing buy-in early on, and clearly understanding the environmental, regulatory and social requirements will ensure an easier transition from vision to reality. In this project, that meant engaging several expert advisory committees (hydrology, community development) led by different divisions within the City of Gatineau. This engagement took place in parallel with the engagement process and allowed the City to build a broad and deep base of knowledge of the complexities of the project.
Project Challenges

The challenges listed below have helped shape the intent, approach and delivery of this project and will continue to influence the transition from conceptualization to implementation.

Complexity and Care

The impacts of climate change on these districts have dislodged hundreds of residents and families and the area is defined by complicated regulatory restrictions that limit the possible redevelopment solutions. In a project like this, it’s important to incorporate working group members who can represent the social, regulatory and environmental needs of the area.

The complexity and sensitivity of the redevelopment require an approach that is authentic, flexible and focused on getting things right, over getting things done quickly.

Stakeholder Engagement

In a project such as this, it is vital to show real inclusion, flexibility and creativity in the engagement and management of stakeholders and community members. This could mean going the extra mile and knocking on doors or finding your own “secret weapon” (like Edward) to ensure that all relevant considerations and perspectives are engaged. Similarly, the late-stage addition of a stakeholder consultation session bringing together representatives from many different divisions of the municipal public service played an important role in building support for the future of the project.

Urgency to act

Faced with the trauma experienced by the resident communities, working group members felt an urgency to move the process forward at speed. Balancing the needs of the process, a desire to accomplish a valuable and innovative project, while keeping in mind the regulatory restrictions, requires a delicate balance of timeline, expectations and engagement. In a future project, the encouragement of creative thinking, while managing expectations, can be accomplished through heightened intentional communication efforts and multiple touchpoints with stakeholders, working group members and the community.

A shared accountability

Flood-risk management and emergency preparedness generally occur at a provincial level, while municipalities are generally responsible for on-the-ground creative land-use projects like this one. This may mean that a municipality downriver is at a high risk of flooding, while municipalities upstream are unaware of their possible impact on communities downstream.

A more resilient and cohesive flood-preparedness approach would consist of greater commitment and cohesiveness across the different layers of government. Federal, provincial and municipal governments all have a part to play in supporting initiatives. These entities should be engaged early and often to support through funding and resources. These resources can help municipalities and communities realize effective community consultation processes for post-flood rebuilding.

Lasting Impact

As the working group contemplates the transition from project conceptualization to implementation, the biggest questions on the working group minds’ are:

  • “How do we realize this vision?”
  • “How do we fund this vision?”
  • “How do we continue to connect at the community level in the next phase of action?”

As mentioned above, Canada averages a “C” rating for flood management and preparedness. The reality is that the increasing severity and frequency of floods across the country will lead to an increased number of communities, economies and people experiencing similar realities in the years to come.

Park People’s work continues to showcase the vital connection parks provide in communities – as a tool for flood mitigation and adaptation, as a process to strengthen collective community resilience and as a direct link to individual mental and physical health. This project showcases the complexity of a post-flood master plan in vulnerable communities and the need for an engaged, agile and community-centric engagement process.

Park People continues to provide this connection to national resources while working at a community level to execute this vision.

When we asked members of the working group to describe their vision of Pointe Gatineau and Lac-Beauchamp in 15 years, the most common response was “a community with a strong connection.”

There is an ongoing need to address the ecological and flood realities of the area in order to create the sense of community and connectivity that these residents so deeply desire. This project has the potential to revitalize a community that has experienced extensive trauma and help them build back – a stronger, more connected and more resilient place to call home.


Funding for this case study was provided by Intact Financial Corporation