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Downtown Brantford Growth Plan

Downtown Brantford Urban Growth Centre Size and Location
Image Courtesy of Ontario.ca

A Partnership-Driven Growth Strategy

The 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 a small manufacturing town to a growing city with 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 revitalize the region. This city is taking the proper steps to meet its growth targets under the Provincial Growth Plan.

Growth Targets

By 2031, Downtown Brantford must achieve a gross density of 150 residents and jobs per hectare, as indicated in the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH). According to data from Statistics Canada, the density of residents and jobs per hectare in 2011 was approximately 62, representing 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. It 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 only be able to meet provincial growth targets if they did a settlement area boundary expansion.

Consequently, the City of Brantford and its neighbouring County of Brant reached an agreement in 2017 for an official boundary expansion.

Downtown Brantford Growth Plan

A total gross area of 2,720 hectares was transferred to the City of Brantford, including 1,980 hectares of residential lands and 740 hectares of employment lands.

The new agreement and expansion were required for Brantford to accommodate the forecasted population and employment growth data of 2041. It was determined that an additional 460 hectares of additional Community Area land to support 22,6000 new residents and 5,000 new jobs and 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. This includes 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

Source: Ontario University.ca
Courtesy of Ontario Univeristy

Over the next 25 years, Downtown Brantford has a vision for rejuvenation and transformation into a bustling, healthy, and vibrant community with a local, small-town feel and 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 solid 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 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. 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. It allowed Wilfrid Laurier University to run academic programs there, ultimately leading to Downtown Brantford being labelled 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 an excellent way to revitalize any downtown core.

Brantford's partnerships with the provincial government, Wilfrid Laurier University, and other post-secondary institutions have created 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 - A hub for special events and downtown entertainment
  • Laurier-Brantford YMCA - A state-of-the-art, 130,000 sq. ft. recreational facility
  • Market Square - A transformation of a former 300,000 sq. ft. mall into Laurier's One Market University Community Centre, with a new library and food court
  • Downtown Public Library - A revitalized library with a floor-to-ceiling glass façade
  • Capital Improvement Plans - 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 - Greater commuter services from Brantford to the GTA
Source: Advantage Brantford
Courtesy of Advantage Brantford

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Harmony Square

Harmony Square is considered the centrepiece of 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 events and festivities. Harmony Square is located near the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts and close to many quality restaurants for guests to enjoy.

Near Harmony Square is the Grand River, which is only a 5-minute walk away and provides beautiful scenery. It features 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 and create opportunities for residential and commercial growth.

Market Square

The 300,000 square-foot Downtown Brantford Market Square, a former shopping mall, has been transformed into an academic, cultural, and service centre for Wilfrid Laurier 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 the broader community
  • Providing support for the expansion of post-secondary education for Wilfrid Laurier and its partners, such as Conestoga College
  • Continuing the fruitful revitalization efforts of Downtown Brantford that has a strong collaboration between the university and the city
Source: Wilfrid Laurier
Courtesy of Wilfrid Laurier

Laurier-Brantford YMCA

The new Laurier-Brantford YMCA exemplifies 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 Brantford students and community members with excellent athletic opportunities. The project was just recently completed in 2018 and is the first YMCA in the world that is co-owned with an academic institution.

Laurier-Brantford YMCA is part of Downtown Brantford's rejuvenation efforts for the downtown core. The 120,000 sq. ft. site, by architectural firm CannonDesign, received an excellence award from Architect Magazine for its distinctive design.

Source: City of Brantford
Source: City of Brantford

Transportation

While it is true that Brantford as a city is heavily car-dependent, current redevelopments are aimed at decreasing reliance on automobiles. This includes increasing the use of local transit services and creating 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 and improving pedestrian access along Colborne Street.

As an Urban Growth Centre, Downtown Brantford is located strategically close to major economic and business hubs. The city is within a 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 in this Urban Growth Centre and provides direct train access to Toronto in about an hour. Downtown Brantford is also conveniently located within a 90-minute drive to Buffalo and less than three hours from the Windsor-Detroit border, providing 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. At the same time, John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport is only a 30-minute drive.

Brantford's location is strategic because 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 critical economic growth region for the Province of Ontario.

Post Secondary Institutions

Brantford has four post-secondary institutions: Wilfrid Laurier University, Conestoga College, Six Nations Polytechnic, and Westervelt College.

These academic institutions provide the Brantford student population with various educational program choices and a good opportunity for investors. Higher learning centres offer a source of rental income via students seeking accommodation near their place of study.

Academic institutions also boost Brantford's economy by providing greater diversification for its local economy and above-average incomes.

One of Brantford's most prominent 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 strategically dispersed throughout the City's core, making 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, now offers tuition-free programs for people living within Brantford and Huron-Perth counties.

Source: D. Grant Construction Limited
Courtesy of D. Grant Construction Limited

Residential and Commercial

Source: Advantage Brantford
Courtesy of Advantage Brantford

The most crucial aspect of Downtown Brantford's growth plans is centred upon increasing population and jobs to reach expected growth targets. To be exact, Downtown Brantford must achieve a density of 150 people and jobs per hectare by 2031 to align 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 conveniently located within walking distance of 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 in cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and New York. Still, it must be understood that not all cities will look exactly like Toronto. Each city within the 25 Urban Growth Centres has a unique design and infrastructure that supports high-, mid-, or low-rise residential and commercial structures. What works well in one city may not work well in others 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. The notable Ferrero Canada Ltd., a known leader in the global chocolate and confectionery manufacturing sector, is 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 population and job intensification, which are crucial contributors to helping rejuvenate Brantford's downtown core. The City of Brantford has designated over $20 million for revitalization efforts over the past decade. It continues investing in its future through smart collaborations with 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 Toronto's Pearson Airport and Hamilton's John C. Munro Airport also strengthens 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.

Source: City of Brantford
Source: City of Brantford

Regarding residential developments, Brantford is working hard to prevent unmanaged growth by building taller buildings in critical 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 surely boost Downtown Brantford's image. The reality, however, is that not all residential developments will take the form of tall structures. A range of housing types will incorporate high-rise, mid-rise and low-rise residential structures.

The bottom line is that no matter the height 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, there will be greater demand for more high-rise condo developments.

In the coming years, Downtown Brantford will become a destination filled with new residential developments, businesses, shops, and retail establishments that will boost local employment opportunities.

Downtown Public Library

Downtown Brantford Public Library's 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 featuring 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, making the library brighter and more inviting for its patrons.

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 is that these two cities 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. This is also 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 investment opportunities.

Downtown Brantford's growth targets stipulate it must achieve a gross density of 150 residents and jobs per hectare by 2031, representing 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 to achieving its forecasted population of 163,000 people and employment of 79,000 jobs by 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 four graduate programs serving over 3,000 students.

City Of Brantford Population & Employment to 2031

Investors should be interested in a city with a robust 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 five 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 one of Canada's lowest unemployment rates.

Source: City of Brantford
Source: City of Brantford

Brantford's real estate boom can be seen with the release of projects in the condo, townhouse, and detached home segment types. An exciting condo development coming to Brantford called Grand Bell 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. It allows investors 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 offers driving access to Toronto in under an hour and Hamilton in less than 30 minutes. For those who prefer public transportation, Downtown Brantford has local and GO Transit bus services 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%. Regarding 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 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 five years, providing the perfect opportunity for investors to purchase an investment property that can be leased over many years to prospective post-secondary students.

Brantford's substantial student population shows that this city has a strong appetite for rentals, making Downtown Brantford an investor's ultimate dream. 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.

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