With a community-wide focus, it’s not only students who would benefit from a Brandon University expansion into the city’s downtown core.
Open to the broader public, both the 120-unit residential complex and its neighbouring cultural hub, complete with a performance theatre and art gallery, would be a boon to the city at large, interim president Steven Robinson said.
The post-secondary institution hosted a public meeting at city hall on Tuesday to float a number of ideas past the public for their insight.
Part of the "pre-development" phase, University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation had conceptual designs drawn up with the help of Prairie Architects Inc. and Manshield Construction.
These weren’t "plans," Robinson clarified, but an indication of what they might be able to accomplish; early ideas that might spur public debate and discussion around what the community would like to see.
Both options presented on Tuesday would cost approximately $100 million and be rolled out in two phases.
In both options, the residential complex is the centrepiece, carrying eight storeys in one design and a dozen in the other.
At this stage, the university is looking at opening up the building to not only students, but also seniors and the general public.
Other areas of these options highlighted a cultural hub, classroom space, blackbox theatre, academic space and a conference centre.
"It’s not just about a classroom that BU needs, but a space that BU needs that also aligns well with other community needs and vision," University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation CEO Jeremy Read said, adding that the current vision has Brandon University partner with various local organizations to accommodate their needs within the scope of the downtown project.
Although the Strand Theatre is being demolished sometime this spring, Robinson said that plans to create a cultural hub wouldn’t crumble alongside its walls.
"We can still have an arts centre downtown, and I think of an even grander scale than anybody imagined," he said.
Commercial space might also line some of the building’s ground level floors to remain in keeping with the surrounding neighbourhood’s vibes.
Representing the City of Brandon, Mayor Rick Chrest signed a memorandum of understanding with Assiniboine Community College and Brandon University last week, which singled their shared commitment to working together.
This downtown project is certainly indicative of this, he said prior to Tuesday’s meeting, adding that Brandon University has been working closely with the City of Brandon every step of the way, and are considered a partner in the endeavour.
Although a clearly defined plan was not in place when the city’s elected officials opted to support the project with land, Chrest said that the "broad strokes" in their initial plan were encouraging enough to warrant their support.
"Getting more people downtown will just increase the vibrancy of downtown and aid the visibility of other businesses downtown — restaurants and pubs and shops," he said, adding that he has also been encouraged by the conceptual plans’ commitment to creating a cultural base whose reach extends beyond their student base.
Robinson said that he expects to see a followup report from the University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation within the next couple months that would outline the project’s feasibility and community-driven focus.
From there, they’d seek funding from investors keen on putting money into the project’s commercial and residential components, after which they’d commission actual development plans.
To view conceptual designs and submit your opinions about this project, visit brandonu.ca/downtown.
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