Earlier this April, contractors hired by Metrolinx cut down trees on its Downtown Brampton property, where twelve houses once stood. The work, originally scheduled for the week of March 22, did not begin until April 12.
The tree removal brings Greater Toronto’s regional transit operating and planning authority one step closer to building a new 200-plus surface parking lot in a city that hopes to renew its downtown core.
Starting in 2016, Metrolinx purchased over a dozen homes along with two four-storey office towers in an area bounded by Railroad, Nelson, and Elizabeth Streets, immediately south of the Brampton GO Station. It vacated and demolished the houses between 2016 and 2019, and left the two office buildings vacant. Metrolinx’s plan was to build a new surface parking lot to expand parking capacity, though in early 2018, the Liberal provincial government announced a new Ryerson University/Sheridan College campus on the existing main parking lot on the north side of the station. Metrolinx’s acquisition of occupied homes — including heritage-listed buildings and a rooming house — made more sense.
After the election of a new Progressive Conservative government led by Doug Ford, funding for the educational campus was pulled, though the City of Brampton and Ryerson University continued to advance plans for the downtown area. The city bought up more of the downtown core, including the southeast corner of George and Nelson Streets, across from the vacated office buildings, as well as the thirty-year old office building at 2 Nelson Street West, below which is the Brampton Transit downtown terminal. These newly acquired lands would be home to a larger bus terminal that would link to an expanded GO station and a proposed extension of the Hurontario LRT, and an Innovation Centre that would serve the education campus and include a new central library.
As part of its Vision 2040 inspirational guidelines, Brampton now seeks to focus new midrise and highrise development in and around the downtown core, along Queen Street eastwards towards Bramalea City Centre, and in the Main and Steeles area, where the Hurontario LRT will terminate, and where RioCan, owners of Shoppers World, plan to redevelop the mall.
Already, there are several high-rise developments in the downtown area under construction or in the planning phase. More development lands will be unlocked with the Riverwalk project, which will improve flood protection along Etobicoke Creek while providing an improved public space.
Given Brampton’s urban aspirations for its downtown core, another surface parking lot — adding 200 spots to the existing 861 spaces — is not the right idea.
At Bramalea Station, construction has nearly finished on a 1,300 spot parking garage, part of a larger project that also includes a new, larger station building, a larger bus terminal, additional pedestrian tunnels, and improved platforms and security features. Bramalea already has over 2500 parking spaces, but unlike in Downtown Brampton, this is a logical space for parking expansion. The station is surrounded by warehouses and factories, at the intersection of two major truck routes, and close to highways. It is not a place that is easily urbanized. However, improved pedestrian and cycling access is very much warranted.
With the expansion of parking at Bramalea GO, why is Metrolinx eager to add another parking lot in Downtown Brampton, especially with Ryerson’s downtown plans on hold?
Hopefully we will learn more shortly.