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The Globe and Mail

How Brantford renewed interest and activity downtown

The city stands out for its early commitment to attracting postsecondary education institutions

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Peter Vicano, president of Vicano Construction Ltd., is a Brantford, Ont., developer who is gutting and expanding the former two-storey Brantford Expositor newspaper building, seen here with yellow cladding on the expansion.

sheryl nadler The Globe and Mail

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Mr. Vicano is retaining the 1850s-era facade of the Expositor building and creating a new five-storey addition. The $11-million project will provide three- and four-bedroom student apartment suites that will be leased to Wilfrid Laurier University’s downtown campus for occupancy starting this fall.

sheryl nadler The Globe and Mail

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Mr. Vicano stands on the roof of the building, with historic downtown Brantford - once the home of Alexander Graham Bell - in the background.

sheryl nadler The Globe and Mail

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In 1999, the city invested $1.4-million to renovate the former Carnegie Library at 73 George St., turning over the elegant domed facility to Laurier University for $1. This is one of the early examples of an Ontario city teaming up with postsecondary institutions to revitalize its core.

sheryl nadler The Globe and Mail

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From 39 students, Laurier Brantford has grown to 2,700 students in buildings that it owns or leases, with more expansion in the works. A campus of 15,000 students is projected by 2023.

sheryl nadler The Globe and Mail

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The renovated SC Johnson Building at 38 Market St. in downtown Brantford is also being used by Laurier University, one of five postsecondary institutions which have settled in the city's core.

Handout photo

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Another view of the SC Johnson Building, a former bank building that is now a campus administration building for Laurier University. The Brantford experience shows that it takes time to create a critical mass of activity downtown and to build interest from private-sector developers.

sheryl nadler The Globe and Mail

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Harmony Square during the jazz festival. As students and faculty breathe life into the core – the city also built Harmony Square on a main street as a public space for summer concerts and ice skating.

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A small parkette with benches on Colborne Street has replaced a row of heritage buildings that were recently demolished amid much criticism from local heritage activists. A new $58-million YMCA will take up a portion of the vacant land with other redevelopment of the street yet to be determined.

sheryl nadler The Globe and Mail

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An architect’s rendering of the proposed modern Y – a pencil box on stilts that drops three storeys to a lower street – presents a dramatic contrast to the 19th century commercial buildings dotted through downtown.

Cannon Design

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