A Partnership-Driven Growth Strategy
Downtown Brantford Growth Plan has a partnership-driven growth strategy that uses the concepts of community building and collaboration to achieve its goals. Downtown Brantford must achieve a gross density of 150 residents and jobs per hectare by 2031.
The boundaries for Downtown Brantford are from Durham Street to the North, Alfred Street to the East, Icomm Drive to the South, and West Street to the West.
Brantford has come a long way from being known as a small manufacturing town to a growing city that has good tourist appeal and a strong presence of highly-respected civic and institutional amenities and services.
The City’s downtown core began its transformation over a decade ago and continues to build on its successes and partnerships to truly revitalize the region. This city is undeniably taking the right steps on its way to meeting its growth targets under the Provincial Growth Plan.
By 2031, Downtown Brantford must achieve a gross density of 150 residents and jobs per hectare, as indicated in the Growth Plan for the GGH. According to data from Statistics Canada, the 2011 density of residents and jobs per hectare was approximately 62, which represents over 140% potential growth for this Urban Growth Centre by 2031.
The current 10-year growth rate for the City of Brantford is a stable 12.8%. Brantford has approximately 110 hectares of land, which contains the entire downtown core and surrounding neighbourhoods. Brantford will be required to accommodate a forecasted population of 163,000 people and employment of 79,000 jobs by the year 2041.
The City of Brantford conducted a Municipal Comprehensive Review (MCR), which discovered that they would not be able to meet Provincial growth targets unless they did a Settlement Area boundary expansion. Consequently, both the City of Brantford and its neighbouring County of Brant reached an agreement in 2017 for an official boundary expansion. A total gross area of 2,720 hectares was transferred to the City of Brantford, along with a total of 1,980 hectares of residential lands and a total of 740 hectares of employment lands.
This new agreement and expansion is required in order for Brantford to accommodate the forecasted population and employment growth data until the year 2041. It was determined that to meet targets an additional 460 hectares of additional Community Area land to support 22,6000 new residents and 5,000 new jobs, as well as 336 hectares of additional Employment Area land to support 8,400 new jobs would be needed to achieve growth targets.
The remaining balance of Brantford’s growth from 2016 to 2041 includes 38,700 new residents and 20,800 new jobs, which can be accommodated through strategic intensification and development of vacant land within the Built-Up Area, as well as the Designated Greenfield Area and Employment Areas that were already in place within the pre-existing Settlement Area. The total forecast indicates that Brantford can grow by 61,300 residents and 24,100 jobs to achieve its targets under the Growth Plan’s population forecast of 163,000 people and 79,000 jobs by 2041.
Vision for Downtown Brantford Growth Plan
Over the next 25 years, Downtown Brantford has a vision for rejuvenation and transformation into a bustling, healthy and vibrant community that has a local, small town feel with big-city amenities. Downtown Brantford’s vision is symbolized by offering high levels of pedestrian traffic in a neighbourhood that preserves its heritage, while also offering a strong tourist appeal with the presence of highly respected civic and institutional services.
What makes Downtown Brantford’s growth story unique is that it has successfully managed to revive a city that was once on the verge of complete economic collapse. Brantford’s revitalization efforts are certainly a story for the ages, as the city witnessed disinvestment from its downtown core within the manufacturing sector during the 1980s. The economic crisis that hit Brantford was devastating, but through careful planning the city started revitalization efforts that brought revenue from different sources such as a casino near the downtown area. Shortly after, the City renovated the old Carnegie Library and made it a turnkey operation which was offered to Wilfrid Laurier University to run academic programs there, which ultimately led to Downtown Brantford being labeled as the post-secondary downtown.
Downtown Brantford began a path of economic prosperity that would help it achieve its vision through a partnership-driven revitalization model. The City’s downtown has since been experiencing vast economic growth because of its commitment to working with other civic and institutional players. With the creation of its Downtown Master Plan, the City has proven that strategic partnerships are a good way to revitalize any downtown core. Brantford’s partnerships with the Provincial government, Wilfrid Laurier University and other post-secondary institutions has created the opportunities for the City to become a true master-planned community that offers a place to work, live and play all within walking distance. The City has also partnered with the Downtown Brantford Business Improvement Area (BIA) to develop vibrant businesses within the City’s core to accommodate tourists, visitors, students, citizens and investors alike.
As part of its revitalization efforts, Downtown Branford is using the City’s Official Plan, Master Servicing Plan, Transportation Master Plan, Brantford Transit terminal redevelopment improvements, and the recent completion of the Laurier-Brantford YMCA recreational centre as guiding principles for its vision for future growth and prosperity.
Currently, Downtown Brantford has managed to achieve numerous enhancements towards its growth vision, including:
- Harmony Square - Offering a hub for special events and downtown entertainment
- Laurier-Brantford YMCA - Providing a state of the art 130,000 sq. ft. recreational facility
- Market Square - A transformation of a former 300,000 square foot mall into Laurier’s One Market University Community Centre with a new library and food court
- Downtown Public Library - A new revitalized library with a floor-to-ceiling glass façade
- Capital Improvement Plans - Offering improvements to roads and municipal services
- Heritage District - Improvements and renewal to Victoria Park/George Street
- Conestoga College - A new expansion into the downtown
- GO Transit Service - Providing greater commuter services from Brantford to the GTA
Harmony Square is considered the centrepiece for Downtown Brantford’s rejuvenation vision and a symbol of its future. The Square maintains a unique architecture and provides a year-round venue for residents and visitors to gather for various events and festivities. Harmony Square is located near the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts and is near quality restaurants for guests to enjoy.
Near Harmony Square is the Grand River, which is only a 5-minute walk and provides beautiful scenery featuring new green landscaped routes from its banks right into the heart of Downtown Brantford. The City’s plans for new developments will blend well with the city's existing heritage sites that will create opportunities for both residential and commercial growth.
The former 300,000 square foot Downtown Brantford Market Square shopping mall has been transformed into an academic, cultural and service centre for the University’s growing Downtown Brantford campus. Laurier’s One Market has the capacity to almost triple the University’s footprint across Brantford from a current student population of approximately 3,000 full-time and part-time undergraduate and graduate students to 8,000 students over the long term.
The objectives for One Market include:
- Creating a campus facility that is completely integrated with Downtown Brantford
- Preserving the history of the neighbourhood and broader community
- Providing support for the expansion of postsecondary education for not only Laurier, but also its partners such as Conestoga College, and
- Continuing the fruitful revitalization efforts of Downtown Brantford that has a strong collaboration between the University and the City.
The new Laurier-Brantford YMCA is an example of how partnerships can bring success to a city looking to reshape its image. This unique partnership between Wilfrid Laurier University and the YMCA of Hamilton, Burlington, and Brantford has provided athletic opportunities for Brantford students and community members. This project was just recently completed in 2018 and is actually the first YMCA in the world that is co-owned with an academic institution.
The Laurier-Brantford YMCA is considered a part of Downtown Brantford’s rejuvenation efforts for the downtown core. The 120,000 square foot site, by architectural firm CannonDesign, actually received an award of excellence from Architect Magazine for its distinctive design.
While it is true that Brantford as a city is heavily auto-reliant, current redevelopments are aimed at decreasing reliance on automobiles and increasing use of local transit services and roads and pathways that enable more cycling and walking for residents throughout the downtown core. The vision supports a Vertical Link connecting Downtown to Grand River and the Trans Canada Trail, as well as improved pedestrian access along Colborne Street.
As an Urban Growth Centre, Downtown Brantford is actually located strategically to major economic and business hubs. The City is located within a single day’s drive from 160 million customers and 60% of all major North American manufacturers. Its location near major highways and inland and international marine shipping facilities make it an ideal place for business opportunities.
In addition, Downtown Brantford is only three kilometres away from Highway 403, which is a major transportation route that conveniently connects Highway 401 to the Q.E.W. And, in terms of local transit, Brantford Transit service has several stops within Downtown Brantford that make it accessible for ordinary commuters and business professionals.
Via Rail also has a station that runs through this Urban Growth Centre and provides direct transportation access to Toronto in about an hour. It is also conveniently located within a 90-minute drive to Buffalo and less than three hours away from the Windsor-Detroit border, providing it convenient access to business trade across the border. Also, while Brantford does not have its own international airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport is less than an hour’s drive, while John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport is only a 30-minute drive.
What makes Brantford’s location strategic is that it is serviced by major CN freight lines that provide access and services to major manufacturing sectors. This City is gaining greater recognition as a key economic growth region for the Province of Ontario.
Post Secondary Institutions
Brantford currently has four post-secondary institutions, including Wilfrid Laurier University, Conestoga College, Six Nations Polytechnic, and Westervelt College.
These academic institutions provide the Brantford student population with a variety of academic program choices, which is also a good opportunity for investors because higher learning centres provide a source of rental income from students seeking accommodation near their place of study.
The presence of these academic institutions also boost Brantford’s economy because it provides greater diversification for its local economy, as well as providing above average incomes.
One of Brantford’s largest academic centres, the Brantford Wilfred-Laurier campus, is located in the heart of Downtown Brantford and is home to approximately 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
The campus has over 20 buildings that are strategically dispersed throughout the City’s core, which makes it convenient for students to access program options within the downtown area. In addition, Conestoga College, which has convenient access from a local bus terminal, is now offering tuition-free programs for people living within close proximity to Brantford and Huron-Perth counties.
Residential and Commercial
The most important aspect of Downtown Brantford’s growth plans are, of course, centred around increasing density of both population and jobs in order to reach expected growth targets. To be exact, Downtown Brantford must achieve a density of 150 people and jobs per hectare by 2031 to be in line with expectations drawn out under the Provincial Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
Downtown Brantford has been working hard on its growth plans by improving its infrastructure to support greater mixed-use residential and commercial facilities that are conveniently located within walking distance to public transportation systems. Creating a truly walkable employment centre is the primary goal to make Downtown Brantford accessible for residents, business visitors and investors alike.
Smaller cities like Brantford are often known to be more suburban by nature, thereby avoiding the tall high-rise mega city structures seen in cities like Toronto, Vancouver and New York, but it must be understood that not all cities will look exactly like Toronto. Each city within the 25 Urban Growth Centres has its own unique city design and infrastructures that support either tall, medium or low-rise residential and commercial structures. What works well in one city may not work well in other cities within the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
What makes the City of Brantford unique is its historically strong manufacturing sector, coupled with warehousing, professional office buildings and retail and ancillary establishments.
Currently, Brantford’s manufacturing sector represents approximately 15% of its local economy with the presence of the notable Ferrero Canada Ltd., a known leader in the global chocolate and confectionery manufacturing sector, which is also Brantford’s largest employer with approximately 800 full-time and 655 part-time employees.
Ferrero recently invested $36 million to expand its product line to include the production and manufacturing of Tic Tacs and Nutella, which will be marketed and sold across North America.
Brantford is working hard to reshape its image and provide opportunities for future generations by focusing on intensification in terms of population and job density, which are seen as crucial contributors to help rejuvenate Brantford’s downtown core. The City of Brantford has designated over $20 million for revitalization efforts over the past decade and continues to invest in its own future through smart collaborations from both private and public enterprises.
From a business perspective, Brantford’s location offers strategic accessibility to both U.S. and Canadian markets as it is located along the shortest highway travel point between the Detroit and Buffalo borders. The City’s relative proximity to both Toronto’s Pearson Airport and Hamilton’s John C. Munro airport also bring strength to its business prospects. Also, from an economic perspective, Brantford has maintained consistently low unemployment rates over the years, and most recently achieved the lowest local unemployment rate across Canada hitting a low of 3.2% in the latter half of 2019.
With respect to other sectors, Downtown Brantford is developing a reputation for employment opportunities within “Eds and Meds” where opportunities for educational and medical jobs are becoming more prominent. There is no denying that Brantford’s growth strategy has managed to boost its manufacturing sector, while also strengthening its opportunities in other valuable market segments. Downtown Brantford is fulfilling its dream of becoming a valuable city for business investment for new employers looking to penetrate this City’s growing market.
In terms of residential developments, Brantford is working hard to prevent unmanaged growth by building taller buildings in key areas along Colborne Street East, King George Road, and Lynden Road. An upcoming residential condo development called Grand Bell Suites by Lakeview Development Holdings Inc. will be sure to boost Downtown Brantford’s image. The reality, however, is that not all residential developments will take the form of tall structures. There will be a range of housing types that incorporate high-rise, mid-rise and low-rise residential structures as well. The bottom line is that no matter the height of all of these residential structures, Downtown Brantford is promoting the concept of mixed-use sites that provide much needed commercial services and business opportunities within residential establishments. Also, as student populations increase over the years, there will be greater demand for more high-rise condo developments.
In the coming years, Downtown Brantford will become transformed into a destination filled with new residential developments, businesses, shops, and retail establishments that will boost local employment opportunities.
Downtown Public Library
The Downtown Brantford Public Library redesign is considered one of Brantford’s important cultural assets that will help rejuvenate the City’s image. The redesign will provide a new, progressive look that will feature an exterior floor-to-ceiling glass facade facing Downtown Brantford’s popular Colborne Street. This facelift will also feature a more expanded interior that will add almost 500 square feet to the building and make the library brighter and more inviting overall for its guests.
Why Downtown Brantford Matters for Investors
Downtown Brantford is an urban growth centre story for the ages. While you cannot compare Brantford to a city like Toronto, the truth of the matter is that these are two cities that have something different to offer.
Brantford holds the distinction and pride of being known as the “Telephone City,” where in 1874 Alexander Graham Bell first developed the concept of the telephone. Brantford is also the city where Nutella, Tic Tacs and Ferrero Rocher chocolates are made.
Brantford is conveniently located along the banks of the Grand River. It has a growing population that has recently reached over 100,000 people, and is changing the face of a city that was once experiencing certain economic collapse to a city that is now vibrant and filled with opportunity for investment.
Downtown Brantford’s growth targets stipulate it must achieve a gross density of 150 residents and jobs per hectare by 2031, which will represent an increase of over 140% growth for the region. With the recent investments and collaborations by various stakeholders across the city, Brantford is well on its way of achieving its forecasted population of 163,000 people and employment of 79,000 jobs by the year 2041.
This City is achieving its growth targets through strategic collaboration between public and private institutions. The City’s partnership with Wilfrid Laurier University, offering the largest campus in Brantford, has 19 undergraduate and 4 graduate programs serving over 3,000 students.
Investors should be interested in a city that has such a strong post-secondary presence within its downtown core because universities can only house a limited number of students.
Considering the presence of both local and international student populations, investors would be pleased to know that the projected student population in Brantford is expected to reach over 15,000 over the next 5 years.
In terms of real estate investment, Brantford was ranked the No. 1 city in Canada to buy real estate in 2018 because of its strong economic growth and affordability. Brantford is also well known for having very low unemployment rates. Most recently, its local unemployment rate was only 3.2% during the latter half of 2019, which was actually one of the lowest unemployment rates across Canada.
Brantford’s real estate boom can be seen with the release of projects in the condo, townhouse and detached home segment types. In fact, an exciting condo development coming to Brantford called Grand Bell Suites by Lakeview Development Holdings Inc. is helping Downtown Brantford build a master-planned community to reach its growth targets for the region.
This development is centrally located near Wilfrid Laurier University and the Grand River and offers investors an opportunity to be part of a condo project that provides scenic views and access to an urban living environment.
Furthermore, Downtown Brantford is perfect for new and seasoned investors because of its proximity to the GTA. Convenient highway access from highways 403 and 401 offer driving access to Toronto in under an hour and Hamilton in less than 30 minutes. And for those who prefer public transportation, Downtown Brantford has both local and GO Transit bus service connected throughout the city.
While Downtown Brantford does not have the same skyrocketing real estate prices seen in Toronto or Vancouver, it does offer investors the perfect opportunity to purchase properties that are still relatively “cheap” compared to other major cities.
The City of Brantford has a 10-year average resale appreciation rate of 7.5%. And, in terms of rentals, the city has a 10-year average rental appreciation rate of 3.2%, which is expected to rise with the increasing demand for student housing. Also, it is well known that master-planned communities tend to appreciate in value at much higher rates than their surrounding communities.
In addition, statistics show that Brantford’s student populations are expected to increase by over 275% over the next 5 years, providing the perfect opportunity for investors to purchase an investment property that can be leased over many years to prospective students.
Brantford’s strong student population shows that this is a city with a strong appetite for rentals, which makes Downtown Brantford an investor’s ultimate dream. It is well known that strong indicators of a city’s economic viability and growth are strongly linked to the presence of young people who will soon work in that city to help further grow its economy. Downtown Brantford certainly has ambitious plans and the good news is that, thus far, they are on track to achieving their goals.