Bramalea Civic Centre Chinguacousy library being evicted to host TMU medical school despite few details to support the plan
Situated at the Civic Centre for over 50 years, Brampton's Chinguacousy library branch exists as a stark contrast to its modern counterparts. Where the Springdale branch inspires awe with its modern angles and curves of glass and metal, Chinguacousy draws its patrons with its centrality – providing a temple of resources and information at an accessible location, whether that be books, Wi-Fi or 3D printing.
Having undergone major renovations in 2017, the branch is currently the largest and busiest in the Brampton Library network.
Now, suddenly its future is uncertain, with senior staff in negotiations to decide when they will need to leave to make way for the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) medical school, which the institution claims will open in September, 2025. The university has never hosted a medical school.
Along with its large collection of books, the Brampton Library Chinguacousy branch also offers a number of other services to the thousands of residents who visit it each month, including 3D printing.
(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)
Todd Kyle, Brampton Library’s chief executive officer, told The Pointer staff have been working with the City of Brampton to find a new building, but nothing has been chosen yet.
In the meantime, the branch will remain open, aiming for a smooth transition, even with no specific timeline set.
“We are committed to serving this neighbourhood the best we can,” Kyle said. “The news of the medical school of course is great for Brampton, but has certainly impacted the other functions that were in that building and it isn’t within our power as a library to change that.”
One of the main considerations for a building is somewhere close enough to continue serving the central Bramalea neighbourhood, while an existing space has to be found – since the 2025 deadline won’t give adequate time for construction.
“It’s an area of high density housing, lower than average income, a lot of people walk to it – so our intention is to find a new location that preserves the same accessibility and centrality and doesn’t interrupt service,” Kyle added.
“One of the largest jobs will be improvements inside whatever building is chosen to make it ready. Moving itself isn’t the complicated part.”
The library isn’t alone with other tenants, including the Brampton Multicultural Community Centre, also confirming it will be required to move.
TMU, formerly Ryerson University, first announced plans for a medical school in 2021, with City Council voting in favour of a $1 million planning grant to help fund work to study how a future school of medicine in the city could be launched, matching the funding invested by the Province earlier that year.
In January, the province, City and TMU announced the school will be integrated into the Bramalea Civic Centre, chosen due to the proximity to both Brampton Civic Hospital and Peel Memorial Wellness Centre, as well as its accessibility to municipal transportation, GO transit and highway systems.
The site also meets the space requirements to build a school of medicine that will require 250,000 square feet for classrooms, offices, research facilities and an integrated health clinic.
Premier Doug Ford praised the location in an announcement in Brampton on January 27.
“This is such a great location right here in the heart of Brampton and congratulations to everyone involved,” Ford said. “My friends, this new school is part of our government’s major expansion of medical education in Ontario – the largest expansion of our medical school system in more than 10 years.”
He told reporters that the school is planning 80 undergraduate seats and 95 postgraduate seats. William Osler Health System is working with TMU as the primary clinical partner, which means they’ll be responsible for providing a clinical learning environment for undergraduate medical education, residency training, health professional education and professional development.
TMU students are planned to engage with all three hospitals in the Osler system, as well as primary care providers in Brampton and the surrounding communities. The University told The Pointer that it is still too early to say if physical modifications to these locations will be necessary.
There has been no announcement of funds for the project in the provincial budget. Only the $1 million was committed to explore the possibility of a Brampton medical school in partnership with TMU.
The claimed timeline, to have the school opened by September, 2025 does not line up with the length of time it typically takes to launch a new medical school by a university that has never had one.
York University established its faculty of health in 2006, and has established degree programs in a wide range of medical fields to support a medical school education. In 2008 the university made clear it wanted to open a medical school and began the process. Fifteen years later they are about half way there, according to the university’s own timeline, below, which illustrates what it takes to get one launched.
In the last five years it has moved from a Memorandum Of Understanding with the City of Vaughan, Mackenzie Health and VentureLab. “In 2019 York University entered a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the City of Vaughan, Mackenzie Health, and VentureLab to undertake a feasibility study for the creation of a healthcare precinct on lands adjacent to the Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital,” York details on its medical school plan webpage.
After 28 steps since, each detailed on York’s website, it is now here: “January 19, 2023 Discussion with the Council of Research Directors. Provost and VP Academic Lisa Philipps meets with representatives from the Council of Research Directors to discuss opportunities with the School of Medicine and the Vaughan Healthcare Centre Precinct.”
The Ministry spokesperson said the York proposal is under review but there have been no updates on the proposed project, which was first put forward over 15 years ago with a wide coalition of health sector partners and municipalities including Toronto, Vaughan and York Region.
It’s unclear how, or if the Province would move forward with two new medical schools, in neighbouring cities.
While it’s unclear how Brampton’s medical school, which has no teaching hospital, and no university partner with an established academic medical program, will open in two years, the space announced recently would have to house a sizable university campus where a local library branch has sat for decades.
Its future is now also unclear.
Brampton Library leases the space in the Civic Centre, about 50,000 square feet, including 33,000 square feet comprising the Chinguacousy Branch, and 17,000 square feet of operational space housing the entire Library’s acquisitions, shipping and receiving, programming, outreach, marketing, and IT functions, as well as serving as a base for the On-The-Go outreach van.
“I think it’s taking the community a long time to realize it (will require the library to move) because, of course the announcement has been focused on the good news, and some people have sort of had to put two and two together,” Kyle said.
Eight library branches service Brampton’s 700,000 residents – the lowest number of branches and space per capita out of every major city in Canada. Compare that with Mississauga, with a population also 700,000; it operates 18 branches. Hamilton, a city with a population of about 600,000, operates 22 branches.
The biggest constraint for Brampton has been space. In 2011, a facilities needs assessment for Brampton libraries found a “significant” gap between Brampton and every other community that was benchmarked as part of the study. At the time there were only seven branches before the opening of Springdale in 2019.
Now, the future of one of its main locations is suddenly uncertain, as questions about the medical school uprooting the branch remain unanswered.
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