Brampton is the future

Popular 1960s animated television series, The Jetsons, featured a family living high above the ground in the futuristic Orbit City. They nip around in their glass-domed flying saucer car and, when not flying, zoom along on conveyor-belt sidewalks. Robots and newfangled contraptions look after their every need and, with all that saved time, they find themselves in plenty of hilarious predicaments.

A look at the ambitious Brampton 2040 Vision might reveal where internationally-renowned Professor Larry Beasley, as a young teen, may have found his inspiration. He’s the fellow who planned the much-admired downtown core in Vancouver, which made him one of the most sought after urban planning consultants in the world. And here he is, in Brampton, bursting with an almost child-like excitement over a new Lego set.

On May 7, Beasley presented Brampton city council with ideas on how to make the city realize its potential. They’re not just his ideas, he consulted widely with Brampton residents and accumulated data to help him understand what Bramptonians value most.

What Brampton got is a plan overwhelmingly endorsed, 11-0, by city council that aims to transform Brampton into Canada’s most advanced modern urban centre over the next 20 years. Beasley sees potential everywhere he looks. Seamed together by a “figure-eight” rapid transit system, he sees an “Uptown” and a “Downtown,” serving as Brampton’s major centres. The new Uptown area encompasses a re-conceived Shoppers World mall, and the Downtown is almost the same downtown that Brampton knows best.

But, except for its heritage buildings, the downtown will be practically unrecognizable with pedestrian and bicycle-friendly rights of way, high-density residential towers, shops, eateries, cafes, a university, new library and maybe a grocery. Downtown development is contingent on multi-level government funding to remedy a floodplain issue that has hobbled progress for decades. According to the standing-room-only crowd at the city hall presentation, that doesn’t seem to dampen anyone’s optimism.

“The downtown of Brampton is absolutely essential to the future of this place and we have to find a way to unlock the great potential that is here,” Beasley said. “We’re saying that because of the extraordinary decision by Ryerson University to come here and the already good luck of having the hospital here and having a great heritage setting, that you can draw a certain kind of business here that would enjoy that setting and you can create an advanced hub for arts and for education and life sciences.”

The plan calls for the creation of five centres located around the city, made up of dense, mixed-use places that will feature lower rents for businesses. Beasley says that will attract business and bring jobs to Brampton. Being able to work closer to home in Brampton was one of the main concerns in residents’ feedback, he said.

“A new idea that came from a lot of people was to take Queen Street and turn it into what we call the ‘boulevard lifestyle,’” said Beasley. “The boulevard lifestyle is where you live upstairs, you work maybe in the same building or just down the street. You go for lunch or dinner or for all your fun things right on the street, right on the sidewalk.”

Extending east from downtown, the so-called “Queen’s Boulevard” would approach the 410 freeway.

Brampton’s ecology is a big issue. With concern that Brampton is losing its canopy, there’s a call for planting a million trees. With that in mind, Beasley’s plan features a “River Walk” and integrated park system and nature reserve connecting Brampton’s multiple green park areas.

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