Silva Cells Bring the Green to New Industrial Redevelopment in Cambridge, Ontario

Gaslight District utilizes Silva Cells to support plaza hardscapes and provide quality soil environment for trees’ ongoing health and vitality


A former industrial zone in the Galt neighborhood of Cambridge, Ontario, is getting new life as a mixed-used community known as the Gaslight District. Rather than tear down the landmark buildings and start fresh, the new development integrated these historic facilities into their design plans, blending heritage with modern amenity. The team at The Planning Partnership — spearheading the landscaped, multi-use corridor of the Gaslight District — prioritized green space, planting 13 new trees in the plaza hardscape: each one supported by the Silva Cell system for its lightly compacted soil benefits.

Installation Summary

Number of Silva Cells: 246 (3x) and 6 (2x)

Amount of Soil Volume Per Tree: 20-25 m3

Number of Trees: 13

Type of Project: Plaza

Project Designer: The Planning Partnership

Project Contractor: Ghent Landscape

Installation Date of Silva Cells: Early 2022

The New Gaslight District

Downtown Galt in Cambridge, Ontario, has a rich industrial lineage dating back to the Goldie & McCulloch steam engine factory that grazed the western shores of the Grand River in the late 1800s. As part of a local effort to rejuvenate the area over a century later, the second largest private investment in Cambridge history (behind only Toyota) was initiated with the goal of redeveloping the area into a vibrant mixed-use district. The project came to be known as the Gaslight District.

The new multi-purpose community blends residential, commercial, and retail space: a true do-it-all district in which people can live, work, and play. As noted by the architecture team at MSS, “The Gaslight District serves as a ‘piazza’ for Cambridge — a place for locals and visitors to come together to enjoy food and drink, art exhibits, and live music performances. The central square is embraced within restored stone buildings that house a mix of event and office space.” The old-meets-new aesthetic seamlessly blends the historic industrial ambiance with contemporary amenities.

As Patrick Simmons of MSS observes, “The Gaslight District is one of the best examples of place-making and city-building in the Waterloo Region.” Placemaking is, of course, about the entire space, including landscape: green features were a priority of the project from the outset and the team at The Planning Partnership was tasked with beautifying the multi-purpose corridor on the north side of the development, lined with 13 new tree plantings in the DeepRoot Silva Cell system.

Silva Cell trees a year after their planting (2023)

Green Space and Silva Cells

More than 250 Silva Cells (primarily 3x depth) were installed in early 2022. Each new tree is receiving access to 20-25 cubic meters of lightly compacted soil volume in shared environments, a recipe for healthy and mature tree growth. At the same time, the system is supporting the multi-use hardscape above — which can be transitioned from a pedestrian walkway to dining or event space as needed — with a robust loading capacity: snow-clearing equipment and heavy machinery are able to be operated on the surface without issue.

The tree grates surrounding the trees are flush with the pavers, which can sometimes mean an excess of salt entering the soil in cold-climate areas. But this was addressed in the design process with the incorporation of an underdrain to remove the salt from the rooting space. Likewise, the DeepRoot Water + Air system was utilized, connecting to PVC pipes and providing passive irrigation to the trees: an efficient water-in/water-out network.

Construction was led by the team at Ghent Landscape Inc., who appreciated both the simplicity of the Silva Cell system installation and what it provides in tight-space urban environments.

“Growing large urban trees has always been challenging — but companies like DeepRoot are inventing new ways to make it possible. With modern designs like Silva Cells, we can secure green space in tomorrow’s infrastructure.”

Thus far, the new Gaslight District has been a hit with locals. It serves as one of the few places in the area with green space — which is only going to increase as the trees mature, which helps create a welcoming ambiance in the city environment. As Simmons says, “Architecture is great, buildings are fine, but it is a rare opportunity when you actually get to create an urban space.”

Additional Resources

For other projects in Ontario, check out our case studies here, here, and here.


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