As Canada’s ninth largest city, and one of its fastest growing, Brampton has a bright future. The recent announcement that Ryerson University and Sheridan College will be bringing a new post-secondary campus to Downtown Brampton is an exciting step in its evolution. The new campus dovetails well with the city’s new Planning Vision “Living the Mosaic” which will help guide growth in Brampton through to 2040 and envisions a denser and more vibrant downtown core.
Ryerson is thrilled about the new campus, for good reason. It has always been Toronto’s downtown university and has been integral in revitalizing its neighbourhood. Applying the lessons learned at its Toronto campus and contributing to city building in Downtown Brampton is a natural next step in Ryerson’s future.
Having the campus adjacent to a GO station and only a couple of blocks away from Brampton’s traditional heart at Queen and Main is a tremendous opportunity. From a University perspective, locating the campus at a GO Station makes it easier to attract students from across the GTA.
From a broader city building perspective, redeveloping a downtown parking lot is an incredible opportunity to add new vibrancy to a community. In the Ryerson City Building Institute’s report, Suburbs on Track, we recommended that transit stations areas be re-developed as complete communities—Brampton’s new university will be a case study in how this can happen.
The campus is expected to accommodate 2,000 students who will infuse Downtown Brampton with more energy. The campus will also bring new jobs for faculty and support staff, and provide demand for new services, shops, and restaurants downtown. Appropriately seized, the university can be the catalyst for wider downtown development, bringing new jobs and housing opportunities for all Brampton residents.
The campus’s location will also support the development of new rapid transit routes, such as the “Figure Eight Loop” proposed in Brampton’s vision. Investing in rapid transit will move students and residents from across the city, connecting them to jobs in Downtown and Uptown Brampton and to the regional transportation network.
However, a bold city vision and new university alone won’t transform Brampton. Handed this extraordinary opportunity, the city should encourage new development in its downtown and uptown cores, and along proposed rapid transit routes.
Attracting this development will require work, and a more proactive approach to planning for intensification. But there are big rewards: a 2014 survey by the Pembina Institute and RBC found that 80 per cent of respondents in the GTA would trade a large house and yard in a car-dependent location for a multi-unit home close to transit, work, school and services. A burgeoning downtown and new university will give Brampton the opportunity to deliver this much desired type of housing.
The change doesn’t require a forest of high-rise condos. At the Ryerson City Building Institute, we have been advocating for intensification of more modest densities—what we call the “missing middle”: townhouses, walk-up apartments, and mid-rise buildings of five to 11 stories along our main streets.
These forms of development are typically less expensive than detached homes, and offer larger and more family-friendly housing than condo units in high-rises. They bring the type of moderate density that supports vibrant streetscapes, walkable neighbourhoods, and rapid transit.
If City Council and city staff can make it easier for developers to deliver that kind of housing—close to the university, in its downtown and uptown areas, and along rapid transit routes—the Flower City will find itself blooming as a place where even more people want to live, work, learn, and play.
Graham Haines is the Research and Policy Manager at the Ryerson City Building Institute at Ryerson University.