The Brandon Downtown Development Corporation (BDDC) is a non-profit organization mandated to drive revitalization of downtown Brandon by identifying and encouraging investment and redevelopment opportunities in the city’s core. Funded by the City of Brandon and Province of Manitoba, the BDDC uses incentive programs to leverage private sector investment in downtown. At the root of it, the development corporation helps bring to fruition redevelopment projects that may not otherwise have been feasible.
Ed McMahon said, “It’s really kind of hard to be a suburb of nothing. If you don’t have a downtown, you really don’t have anything.”
That desire to create a lively city centre is a passion for executive director Elisabeth Saftiuk. Since moving to Brandon from Winnipeg three years ago, she has worked to build relationships with downtown stakeholders and to help them accomplish their goals. Saftiuk’s vision for downtown is catching on and shared by a cohort of savvy developers and business owners alike.
Within the last few years, the BDDC has provided funding for several downtown projects, including the redevelopment of the former Central Fire Station. This property has been beautifully restored and is now home to Prairie Firehouse Restaurant, whose food and atmosphere draw in diners at all times of the day, particularly evenings and weekends. This kind of activity outside of traditional business hours is critically important in realizing our vision of a dynamic downtown.
Another significant enhancement to downtown was the addition of Pirouette Activewear, an established dance, skate and swimwear retail business that relocated into the downtown, in 2016. “This property had been neglected for some time and with the help of a Redevelopment Grant, the property owner was able to transform the space, which also helped to improve the streetscape along this stretch of 10th Street.”
“We have a unique collection of heritage buildings in downtown Brandon, which is a tremendous asset to our city. They create a visual representation of our community’s heritage and serve as a physical expression of our history.”
Prairie Lofts, an 8-unit residential development project, is a prime example of such an undertaking. “Located above Ten Thousand Villages and Innomar Clinics on Rosser Avenue, this upper-story conversion completely transformed formerly vacant space into high-end loft-style rental apartments. The developers had a keen eye for detail and took care to ensure they maintained the historic integrity of the space, which included the installation of custom windows that pay homage to the past.” The BDDC provided a Redevelopment Grant to assist the property owners with the preservation and adaptive re-use of the space.
In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs said, “You can’t rely on bringing people downtown, you have to put them there.”
“I interpret this famous urbanist’s theory in two ways. We need people living downtown who will demand services, but we also need to give the public a reason to come downtown.”
To that end, residential development projects have been and continue to be an important focus for the development corporation. “Drawing a critical mass of residents downtown drives revitalization because it is precisely this critical massing of people who demand services and that attract amenities. Appealing new housing with street-level cafes and shops breathes new life into downtowns.”
From large-scale renovation projects to offering rent assistance, the BDDC has been an important support in assisting business owners not only get started in downtown, but to thrive.
Their Rent Abatement Program provides funding directly to business owners to help subsidize lease payments, to help make it even more desirable to locate downtown. “Since 2015 we have supported 10 businesses through this program, including Tour Indoor Cycling, Chez Angela Bakery & Café and Muse Boutique & Bridal Studio.”
“Over the past few years, we have witnessed the early stages of a revival in our downtown, which has included the preservation and adaptive re-use of several neglected character properties. We have provided funding to help bring these properties back to life and we have helped business owners establish themselves and thrive in our city’s core. What is perhaps most exciting is that we’re just getting started.”
“If you are a new or existing business owner looking for space in downtown, we would like to work with you. If you are an existing property owner interested in a redevelopment project, please connect with us. If you are an entrepreneur wishing to build new or redevelop in downtown Brandon, we’d like to help.”
For more information on the Brandon Downtown Development Corporation and to learn about the exciting things happening in downtown, please visit brandondowntowndevelopment.ca or call their office today.