Brandon University has acquired a significant location downtown: the former Strand Theatre property.
"This is the perfect time for us to take advantage of this fortuitous opportunity," said BU President Gervan Fearon. "Our University’s Academic Plan speaks to community engagement and being a catalyst for community growth and development. This property will help us to further meet student needs, to broaden our academic programming engagement with the community, and to play a role in the revitalization of the downtown core."
The new acquisition is on the 100-block of 10th Street in downtown Brandon and BU has taken possession of it from Landmark Cinemas for the price of $1.
"Landmark Cinemas has been outstanding to work with throughout this process, and we are very pleased that they share our vision for education and development in Brandon’s core," Fearon said.
"My partner, Neil Campbell, Landmark’s President and CEO and a Brandon University alumnus from 1973, and myself are exceptionally pleased to have worked with Brandon University to find a solution for the property that works for everyone," said Brian McIntosh, executive chairman of Landmark Cinemas. "Landmark Cinemas has been entertaining the movie-goers of Brandon and district since the 1970s and in a small way this is our opportunity to give-back to the community which has supported Landmark so well for so many years. We will watch, with great interest, what new plans Brandon University has in store for this site and we wish the University and the City much success with their future downtown Brandon plans."
Adding a nearby downtown element to BU’s visible and central Brandon location on 18th Street will provide significant future opportunities for the university as well as the city.
"Brandon University is moving to expand our role in community-based research as well as co-op and experiential education," said Steve Robinson, BU’s Vice President, Academic and Provost. "A presence downtown can allow us to strengthen these links, forge new ones, and provide a full spectrum of study and research opportunities."
The new location will also provide the university community with new and better access to civic amenities.
"Students know that life doesn’t start and end at the campus limits. Whether it’s working a part-time job, finding a coffee shop to study or write a paper, or socializing in the evening, downtown Brandon offers a lot for us," said Brandon University Students’ Union President Nick Brown. "We’re excited to see the plans as they develop, and happy to work with faculty and administration to find the best use for this needed space. We already have some ideas, such as student residences and student family housing, which would be ideal given the location right across from Princess Park and recreational facilities."
Over the coming months, Brandon University will work with the university community, the City of Brandon, Renaissance Brandon and other partners to refine plans for the future use of the property through innovative partnerships and prudent fiscal management.
"There is a resurgence of optimism and development in downtown Brandon, and to have Brandon University playing a significant role underscores this sense of excitement for the future of our city," said Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest. "BU continues to be an excellent partner with the City of Brandon, and I look forward to welcoming them downtown."
The 100-block of 10th Street is among the most historic and central in Brandon. Recent nearby development has included office and retail space, upper-storey residential, a well-used skateboard park.
"It is incredibly exciting that Brandon University has made a decision to place roots in the heart of our city," said Elisabeth Saftiuk, executive director of Renaissance Brandon. "A university presence in the city’s core will bring dynamic change to downtown Brandon. Brandon University can catalyze the mixed-use development that is critical for downtown revitalization. This is a perfect fit that brings new people, new amenities, and new life to downtown Brandon."
Brandon University is further reviewing the results of an engineering assessment that was done on the building. A Campus Master Plan process is also currently underway. Anticipated for completion in mid-2017, the Campus Master Plan will look at potential directions for facility development and space usage at BU. Acquiring this downtown properly now means it is able to be fully incorporated into the planning process, advancing Brandon University’s priority to be a community-engaged institution.
"We know public projects must demonstrate a strong value proposition. The combination of growth at Brandon University with development in downtown Brandon provides outstanding value and benefits for the city and the entire community," said Derrick Stewart, chair of the BU Board of Governors. "This will be transformative for all — for the university community, the city and the southwestern Manitoba region. We are working to make Brandon a preferred destination for post-secondary education."