Brandon University (BU) is moving forward with the next phase of its ambitious and transformative downtown initiative, and will solicit public input into a detailed concept for the future development.
The University has nearly completed the complex process of assembling seven separate properties into a single contiguous parcel and has engaged an experienced external expert team to assist in leading the consultation and planning required to develop the full concept plan.
“I am grateful to all four of the landowners and our other partners who were all instrumental in bringing this mutually beneficial deal together,” said BU President Gervan Fearon. “Landmark Cinemas first raised the curtain on this proposal, with their fortuitous offer to sell us the former Strand Theatre property at nominal cost, and property neighbours including the City of Brandon and Renaissance Brandon have been wonderfully supportive and very collaborative in helping us make these arrangements possible. We continue to have constructive discussions with a private landowner that is nearly complete.”
The combined area of the properties would be nearly 70,000 square feet, north of Princess Avenue, between Ninth Street and 10th Street, on which the University is committed to creating a mixed-use development that will add value to the existing neighbourhood, bringing new amenities and vitality to the downtown core.
This amount of space downtown opens up new opportunities to advance the University’s priorities as stated in the BU Academic Plan as well as the themes that have emerged from the new BU Campus Master Plan. It will be one of the most significant developments for the University and City in decades.
“This is truly a win-win arrangement, and an innovative university-community partnership in action that serves as a solid foundation for this transformative downtown initiative,” Fearon said. “We have been very pleased with the positive support received all the way along from the community and within the community, and we will take that energy forward as BU embarks on detailed planning to bring the next phase of development into focus.”
The BU downtown initiative will include new-concept student residences as well as an innovative partnership with Servants of Service on a seniors’ residence development.
“Affordable, sustainable housing is important for people of all ages,” said Jim Brannan of Servants of Service. “Partnering with Brandon University allows us to develop this project in new ways that benefit students, seniors and the city.”
The residential component will be coupled with academic and learning spaces as well as possible commercial development.
“The demand for student and senior residences is very strong. Town-hall sessions with faculty and BU community members have shown that there is strong positive interest in the entire downtown initiative and the town halls have been filled with many outstanding ideas for possible academic components,” said BU’s incoming Interim President Steve Robinson.
Over the next few months, BU will be broadening its public consultation, and has engaged the University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation (UWCRC), through its related organization, UWCRC 2.0, to support additional consultation sessions and to develop further details and plans for the downtown Brandon initiative.
UWCRC is a not-for-profit values-driven development organization that has extensive experience, over more than a dozen years, with successful developments in downtown Winnipeg. This development, which has now exceeded $200 million in value, has simultaneously met the needs of an evolving University and contributed to the revitalization of Winnipeg’s downtown. Mixed income housing developments have increased downtown residential density by providing affordable housing options for students, Indigenous families, new Canadians, young professionals and seniors. UWCRC has also developed mixed use academic, recreational, cultural and commercial development often building University/community partnerships to bring innovative projects to fruition. It is guided by environmental, social, economic and cultural sustainability, and is perfectly positioned to guide the Brandon University downtown initiative.
“UWCRC has experience and expertise in guiding downtown academic development, right here in Manitoba. They are ideal partners for us,” Interim President Robinson said. “Along with determining the best housing, academic and possible commercial spaces for this downtown initiative, our partners at UWCRC will be exploring new and innovative funding models, possible ownership and governance structures, that will help us determine the ideal scope and scale of the possible development.”
“We welcome the opportunity to apply the expertise we have gained over the past dozen years to the development vision of Brandon University,” said Sherman Kreiner, UWCRC Managing Director. “We share many development principles, from sustainability to accessibility to good urban design within a context of fiscal sustainability. Among our many development initiatives, we have carefully designed successful, large-scale mixed-income residences. This is all too rare in Canada. We are so pleased that Brandon University is taking a leadership role in values-based development and look forward to working together to create an innovative vision for revitalizing downtown Brandon.”
While UWCRC will lead rounds of targeted consultation beginning in September, Brandon University also invites public feedback by email at Downtown@BrandonU.ca or though the feedback form online at BrandonU.ca/Downtown. Members of the university and community are encouraged to share their ideas.
“We are committed to working collaboratively with all students, faculty and staff at Brandon University, as well as everyone in the city and region, to help develop plans for achieving a downtown revitalization initiative that represents the best of university-community engagement and innovative partnership in action,” Robinson said. “We look forward to hearing your thoughts and vision for Brandon University’s downtown campus.”
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