ULI Toronto’s Urban Ideas Competition Sparks Creative Plans for Downtown Brampton
January 27, 2016
By Sean Mackay
ULI Toronto has announced the winners of its second annual Urban Ideas Competition, which solicited concepts for revitalizing downtown Brampton, a growing and ethnically diverse Toronto suburb. An awards ceremony was held in November at Alderlea, a restored 19th-century mansion in Brampton.
PLURAL, a firm based in Toronto and Abu Dhabi, won the Overall Vision award for a proposal that includes a riverwalk feature beside Etobicoke Creek, which runs through Brampton’s city center, and the Hub, a mixed-use community anchor featuring a year-round farmers market and a space for pop-up restaurants.
Parvathi Nampoothiri, Ilja Green, and Mahesh Iyer wrote in their proposal, “Plural Design,” that Brampton is a city of “beautiful ravines and natural systems” with an identifiable historic core, but also is characterized by unsustainable urban sprawl and big-box retail outlets.
In addition to the Overall Vision category, the jury also gave awards in a student category and a people’s choice category. A student team from the University of Waterloo won first place in both for its “Brampton Revitalization” submission. Team members included Anand Balram, Erin Smith, Shikha Jagwani, Vitu Mhango, Rebekah Lein, and Cynthia Chiu Chen.
The teams were asked to consider two opposing themes when proposing a new vision for Brampton: Toronto is the North American leader in arresting urban sprawl, but also the second-worst offender when it comes to commute times. Suburbs like Brampton are key places to watch for change in this dynamic, describing Brampton as a growing transit hub with a rich community heritage, said Richard Joy, executive director of ULI Toronto.
Marilyn Ball, Brampton’s chief planning and infrastructure services officer, echoed those sentiments. She challenged those who attended the ceremony to consider how Brampton might develop in order to holistically integrate and meet the needs of an aging population of immigrants who want easy access to shopping, transit, and cultural facilities.
The competition featured 20 entries vying to provide the most compelling scheme to revitalize Brampton’s city center. The jury included Matthew Blackett, editor and publisher of Spacing magazine; Don Naylor, founder and president of Don Naylor + Associates, a landscape architecture and environmental planning firm; Jeff Casello, associate professor and associate dean at the University of Waterloo School of Planning; Joe Cordiano, principal at Cityzen Development Group; and John Potter, senior adviser at Metrolinx.
In a question-and-answer session before the awards ceremony, jurors discussed their criteria for selecting the winning proposals. They included vibrancy or the desire for activity at all hours of the day; granularity or designing on a smaller scale in order to create vibrancy on a larger scale; decreasing space for cars or giving more space for pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport; and anchor institutions and transit hubs to draw young people to a space and create more economic vitality.Sean Mackay is a ULI Toronto volunteer and a staff writer at buzzbuzzhome.com, a real estate news website.
Learn more about “Plural Design” (right) and the other winning submissions to the ULI Toronto Urban Design Competition at toronto.uli.org.