If the current City of Brandon administration’s plan to revitalize the city’s aging downtown has any chance of success, the establishment of equivalency building codes will be a key requirement.
That the city’s building equivalency standards project seems to have been bumped down the priority list is cause for concern.
As the Sun reported yesterday, Coun. Corey Roberts (Rosser) sounded alarm bells when he suggested that local developers were walking away from older building projects in the city’s downtown because the cost of bringing them up to code is too prohibitive.
“Building code equivalencies are very important to make projects feasible when you’re looking at a 100-year-old building,” Roberts told the Sun.
The councillor is quite right. If modern building code standards are imposed on developers as they try to refurbish character buildings like many of those along Rosser Avenue, the added costs will simply scare development off.
But the city’s standards project, which was laid out in the Roadmap for Growth strategic plan in 2011, is considered a “red” item, meaning that it will not be completed within the Roadmap’s stated timeline of 2014.
That news was part of city manager Scott Hildebrand’s Roadmap update to council on Monday. As part of that report, Scott stated that 46 out of 62 projects are already complete or on pace to be completed on schedule. However, nine projects are considered “yellow” which are slightly behind the timeline, while seven projects — including the equivalency code standards project — are considered “red.”
The original plan was to set up a review committee last year and then connect with the City of Winnipeg, which has acted as the model for Brandon’s project. The fire inspection staff, building inspectors and the planning department were supposed to be part of the team working on the new equivalency codes.
However, for somewhat unclear reasons, this has not happened yet.
We do understand these things take time — the city is attempting to construct an entirely new building code policy for downtown development, and as Scott pointed out, they want to “do it right the first time.”
We agree with that sentiment.
But we also note that the buildings that stand at the heart of downtown are not getting any younger — no one in this city wants to see another Brown Block episode. And as we’ve shown through the Brandon Sun’s series on the history of the Prince Edward Hotel last year, we’ve already lost too much of Brandon’s character through neglect and political infighting as it is.
The sooner that Brandon developers have clear equivalency codes for renovating these aging structures, which will allow them to make changes without having to gut building interiors to meet modern codes, the better chance this city will have to save what is left of its historic downtown.
We hope the city will consider giving this project a new priority as it continues its efforts to move on down the Roadmap.