What’s going on in Downtown Brampton?

IMG_6139-0015 Railroad Street, on the City of Brampton’s heritage registrar, is one of several houses recently boarded up in Downtown Brampton

Update April 19, 2018: the location for Ryerson’s new Brampton campus was announced this morning. The 2000-student campus, which will be a partnership between Ryerson University and Sheridan College, will be built at the corner of Mill and Church Streets, on the GO Transit parking lot. This explains Metrolinx’s (GO Transit’s parent agency) purchase and demolition of properties south of the rail corridor, on Nelson, George, Railroad, and Elizabeth Streets, which I wrote about below.

While it remains unfortunate that surface parking will replace housing and offices, at least in the short-to-medium term, at least we now know what’s going on in Downtown Brampton. The downtown campus site, with excellent transit links, is the right location.


Nearly two years ago, I wrote about how Metrolinx, the Province of Ontario’s regional transportation authority, had purchased several houses and two office buildings in Downtown Brampton. The intention at the time was to build a new surface lot to accommodate GO Transit commuters, a symptom of the commuter transit system’s dependence on providing parking.

Metrolinx is responsible for GO Transit, the UP Express airport rail link, the Presto farecard, and planning and constructing transit infrastructure in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

Since my 2016 blog post, three dwellings — 28A and 28B Nelson Street West, a semi-detached house, and 42 Elizabeth Street North — were demolished, but there was little other visible change until this month. Now eight more houses — on Elizabeth Street and Railroad Street have been boarded up and their electricity disconnected, including at least one rooming house that was occupied until very recently. The two office buildings — 29 and 37 George Street — are also emptying out.

Four of these properties — 30 Nelson Street West, 46 and 50 Elizabeth Street North, and 5 Railroad Street — are listed by the City of Brampton as containing heritage resources.

IMG_6153-001Offices at 37 George Street are moving out

So what exactly is going on? Why has Metrolinx purchased twelve homes and two offices in Downtown Brampton? Is it for a surface parking lot as previously reported in 2016? Or does this have to do with recent plans for a new Brampton campus of Ryerson University?

The City of Brampton has been assembling land and buildings nearby, including 8 Nelson Street West, a six-storey office building above the downtown bus terminal. The city also owns the old Loblaws store on the southeast corner of George and Nelson Street. As Bramptonist‘s Divyesh Mistry found, Metrolinx noted “…continued collaboration between Metrolinx staff […] with the City of Brampton and Ryerson University on the Brampton Station redevelopment.”

IMG_6148-001
Houses on Elizabeth Street North recently vacated and boarded up. 

If this land assembly is, in fact, to support a yet unannounced Ryerson University campus site on this block or on the existing Brampton GO Station parking lot, then this is on the whole very good news, though I remain concerned about the loss of downtown housing, particularly rooming houses and affordable apartments that some of older homes in the area have been divided into. A downtown campus with excellent transit links — GO Transit and several Brampton Transit bus routes — makes more sense than Milton’s plans for a greenfield campus for Wilfrid Laurier University distant from GO Transit’s bus and rail lines.

IMG_6149-00146 Elizabeth Street North, a rooming house with heritage status, is now boarded up, with the electricity disconnected. 

Unlike a competing university campus site near Etobicoke Creek backed by New Brampton (a politically influential group of local business and landowners who also opposed the Hurontario-Main LRT route), the GO Station and the Nelson/Railroad/Elizabeth Street buildings are outside the historical floodplain and can be built quicker.

If the existing GO Transit parking lot were to be used for Ryerson’s Brampton campus, then an alternative parking site would be required — hence the recent purchase and the demolition of these homes and offices. The construction of a new surface lot in an designated “anchor hub” — where rapid transit lines meet and urban intensification is encouraged — would be most unfortunate, but I hope that it will not be a long-term solution. On the other hand, a new university campus is exactly the type of land use that should be located at an “anchor hub.”

So far, local officials have kept very quiet about the land assembly on the block surrounded by George, Nelson, Elizabeth and Railroad Streets, perhaps waiting for approvals from the province and Ryerson University before making a public announcement. But with residents and office tenants displaced and houses boarded up suddenly, confirmation of these plans should come soon.

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2 Responses to What’s going on in Downtown Brampton?

  1. Robert Wightman says:

    Last Weekend there was a survey crew in the north parking lot surveying the location of every building on the north side of the tracks and the parking lot. There have been several rumours going around about what is happening but one common theme is the elimination of the two level crossings. The east one, John St. I believe, would just be closed while Mill St. at the west end would become an underpass. At the same time a parking garage would be built in the north lot with a below grade level to exit onto Mill St. While this was going on there would be a temporary parking lot on the land just purchased.

    The future of Railway St. is interesting as it would not be necessary if all the buildings on it east of Mill were removed. A developer has bought most of the land bounded by Main St., Church St. Nelson and Union for a huge mixed use and Condo development. There is also a rumour that the city has been acquiring land along the south side of Church over to the park along Etobicoke Creek. There is a meeting on Monday night at city hall about this development which I shall attend.

    At one time there was a proposal to put in a south track through the office building at 8 Nelson (requiring its demolition) over the bus terminal and going along Railway St. This would require extensive rebuilding of the structure for the south platform. This would mean that entire mainline would be triple tracked from Bramalea to Silver Jct. This would probably be lest costly than building any version of the so called missing link.

  2. Thanks for the update. The mainline through Downtown Brampton would have to be triple-tracked, even if the Missing Link bypass is built, to accommodate GEXR and local CN trains and express trains to/from Kitchener. I don’t buy into the province’s high speed rail fantasy, but I expect we’ll see a more reasonable plan implemented in the next decade.

    The survey crew on the GO station site is very interesting as well, and probably explains Metrolinx’s plans for the George/Nelson/Elizabeth/Railroad block – they want to maintain parking at Brampton GO – be it a new Ryerson campus, or building a garage and grade separation, and that has to go somewhere. Too bad we’re just left to speculate right now.

    The plan for the new high rise development on the east side of Main Street is very interesting. Unfortunately I won’t be able to make that meeting.

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