Could demolition of Main Street properties finally revitalize Brampton’s withering downtown? City continues with delays & Council has not funded a plan 
(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)

Could demolition of Main Street properties finally revitalize Brampton’s withering downtown? City continues with delays & Council has not funded a plan 

When the city’s first shopping mall, the Bramalea City Centre, opened in 1973, Brampton’s historic downtown began to change. Store fronts were shuttered. Windows were boarded up. Old buildings began to crumble. 

A decades-long battle over where investments should be directed to create a future downtown unfolded, with local elected officials pitted against one another. One camp wanted Bramalea, the new planned community, to be the hub of commercial, political and economic activity. The other was committed to the Four Corners, at Queen and Main Streets, believing it could be restored to its former glory. 

The constant in-fighting prevented much from happening and over the course of 40 years, even with a new City Hall, political inertia led to the steady withering of Brampton’s struggling downtown.

Top: A stretch of Queen Street that leads to the heart of downtown Brampton. Bottom: The city’s downtown Walk of Fame, and surrounding light standards badly withered a few years ago.

(The Pointer Files) 


Then, almost a decade ago, with a new mayor, Linda Jeffrey, and a renewed commitment to the city centre’s revitalization, key groups backed by members of council finally came together. 

The result of their effort and planning was called “Downtown Reimagined”, an ambitious vision to create a destination at the centre of Canada’s ninth largest municipality, to attract investment and residents who would flock to stores, shops and services, cafes and greenspaces in the heart of the city.


A rendering of what the Four Corners would have looked like if Brampton’s approved Downtown Reimagined project had moved forward.

(City of Brampton)


It was officially approved and on May 16, 2018 the City published a press release with the headline: “Downtown Brampton set to undergo exciting makeover”.

“Brampton City Council today unanimously approved moving forward with the recommended project plans for the Downtown Reimagined initiative,” it trumpeted. “When completed, Downtown Reimagined will create a vibrant public realm with an aesthetically beautiful streetscape around the historic Four Corners.”

But the plan was doomed by the outcome of the election later the same year, when Patrick Brown salvaged his faltering political career and managed to convince Brampton voters to give him a chance. He promised to slash the City’s budget, to save costs, and immediately cancelled the Downtown Reimagined project. Billboards that had already been erected had to be torn down.


Billboards were erected in 2018, announcing Downtown Reimagined, the council-approved plan to redevelop Brampton’s city centre. But Patrick Brown cancelled it shortly after his election as mayor.

(The Pointer Files)  


Now, once again, there is hope for Brampton’s decaying downtown. 

The recent approval of a staff report greenlighting a massive demolition project involving vacant and deteriorating buildings along the city’s Main Street corridor could bring the long-awaited revitalization residents and businesses have been desperate for — Brown and his council colleagues, however, have not yet put forward a clear plan for what will replace the dilapidated buildings.

A staff report was approved at a Committee of Council meeting giving the greenlight to the demolition of vacant City-owned properties located at 30-46 and 54-60 Main Street North. Staff have also been directed to continue negotiations to acquire properties located at 22–28, 48 and 52 Main Street North for the demolition project. 

The City issued an Expression of Interest for the redevelopment and revitalization of the Heritage Theatre block (70-86 Main Street North) which is marked by the historic Heritage Theatre as well as neighbouring mixed-use commercial and residential buildings, and is currently in the process of evaluating submissions by private companies interested in redeveloping the properties, according to a City webpage.

Built in 1922, the opening of the Heritage Theatre (originally the Capitol Theatre) on February 28th, 1923, was “a major event that marked Brampton’s growth as a residential community.” It could host vaudeville acts and silent films for almost 800 people at the time, until Odeon Corporation became its owner in 1946. It was upgraded to show “talking films.” The City of Brampton purchased it in 1981 and in 1988, the City along with the Province invested in its restoration, and it was renamed The Heritage Theatre for the Performing Arts. It wasn't until 2005 that the Heritage Theatre forfeited its function as a performing arts venue and was vacated (a role the Rose Theatre took over a year later when it was complete) and the building has been left in this state ever since.

Brampton’s classic Heritage Theatre has been around since the 1920s, but has been left vacant and has badly deteriorated along with other properties along Main Street North, The first image above is the Heritage Theatre when it was still in use; the second depicts its current state.

(FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: Region of Peel Archives; Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer; Region of Peel Archives; Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)


“That theatre has been standing there empty, and empty is not good,” Irene Ongaro, owner of Stephan's Furs Ltd, told The Pointer. She said while it is sad to see the city lose a building which is a part of its heritage, it also is not appropriate to leave it vacant. 

She said the news of the demolition project was “a surprise, but not a shocker.” She wants to see Brampton’s downtown move forward, however, worries that there will be more delays. “There's been a lot of promises, and governments change so promises change,” she said. "We're gonna need change,” she said, if Brampton expects to keep up with progress. 

City officials are still working on a Request for Proposal for the Heritage Theatre block “to achieve the long-term strategic redevelopment of the lands…and also proceed with the detailed design and construction for Garden Square improvements.” The goal is to “explore options for the ultimate master plan for the strategic redevelopment of the North-East quadrant of Main Street North and Queen Street East, and report back to Council at a future date,” according to the report. 


Multiple properties have been approved for a major demolition project after the City allowed their condition to deteriorate. Many are vacant and some are Listed Heritage Properties.

(City of Brampton) 

According to the report, the City-owned and private properties in the area are currently in “poor condition and do not comply with Ontario Building Code requirements due in part to long-term deterioration” and that this “poses a risk” since they are located above Brampton's abandoned underground Etobicoke Creek channel.

The abandoned subsurface water channel carried the Etobicoke Creek through downtown Brampton in the past. It was remediated in the 1970s, the report highlights, and in order to support the facades of the buildings on the east of Main Street North, the City installed “load-bearing walls”. 

Since the City still needs to acquire any remaining privately-owned buildings before their demolition can occur, the report states the undertaking would begin with vacant City-owned buildings, particularly along the east side of Main Street North, after which the private properties can be addressed when the City is able to obtain and vacate them. 

Multiple properties along Main Street North in downtown Brampton, which stand above the abandoned Etobicoke Creek Channel, have been deteriorating, many of them vacant. The City will now spend $6 million to demolish them.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)


“To demolish the non-compliant buildings as cost-effectively as possible, staff recommends that the City-owned buildings located at 30–46 and 54–60 Main Street North be deconstructed using a combination of heavy machinery and selective disassembly adjacent to private property at an estimated cost of $6.0M,” the report details.  

Demolishing them all at the same time is the more cost-effective method according to staff, since “the buildings share common demising and load-bearing walls.”

It remains unclear what exactly the City ultimately has planned for the site after demolitions are completed. The report indicates there will be “interim strategies” implemented immediately after demolition, such as the “temporary expansion of Garden Square including elements of an urban square, park, and an improved public realm through the addition of benches, patio seating, planters, gazebo, and more.” 


Despite years of neglect, Brampton residents, businesses and local groups have made efforts to bring life to the downtown. Murals and street art can be seen along Main Street North, including on buildings that have deteriorated to a point of requiring demolition.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)


For its “ultimate vision,” the report suggests the City “will continue to work on the Request for Proposal” regarding the Heritage Theatre block “to achieve the long-term strategic redevelopment of the lands” and will “proceed with the detailed design and construction for Garden Square improvements.”

“The Downtown Revitalization Division shall explore options for the ultimate master plan for the strategic redevelopment of the North-East quadrant of Main Street North and Queen Street East, and report back to Council at a future date.”  

The City did not respond to The Pointer’s request for details about what the ultimate vision will be. It remains unclear what will come of the major demolition project. 

It will bring even more construction activity to Brampton’s city centre which has been undergoing work by the Region of Peel to replace its watermain and sanitary sewer systems which has impacted businesses in the area with revenue losses and even closures. That work was supposed to be part of the Downtown Reimagined project approved in 2018, but when Brown cancelled it the Region was forced to proceed with its critical work to replace long-outdated underground water and sewer mains that posed a serious risk to surrounding properties.


Businesses in downtown Brampton have struggled with ongoing construction.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer Files)

Removing the buildings (and the interim strategy post-demolition) is also anticipated to interrupt activity at Garden Square, a central location for community events, especially during the summer. The work “will require an area beyond the subject sites to accommodate the staging of equipment and materials for the duration of the project,” the report explains, advising part of Garden Square be used to “accommodate site access, equipment movements and material laydown and staging space,” so that the impact to the downtown area is minimized. 

Events planned at Garden Square “will be taken into consideration in the design of hoarding, staging, and phasing plans of the work to minimize any potential disruption.” Staff recommend demolition activity commence after “the summer events schedule” so that its impact on programs hosted there and at The Rose Theatre are reduced. 


A portion of Garden Square in Downtown Brampton will be used for operations related to the demolition project.

(The Pointer Files)

Ongaro hopes there will be new features to attract people to the city. 

“It's very exciting. It's scary, yes, but it's very exciting,” she said regarding changes including the possibility of a long-anticipated LRT line into downtown. “People will probably come just to try it,” she said, but while the provincial government said it will construct the line past the Brampton Gateway Terminal and into downtown, engineering and environmental assessment work has not been done, an alignment has not been approved and no money for the extension has been budgeted by the PCs.


Irene Ongaro, owner of Stephan's Furs Ltd, says she's excited for the prospect of downtown Brampton finally seeing some improvements, although she hopes the demolition of the block will not involve excessive delays.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)


With the demolitions, she said the loss of street parking will be hardest for her business because her customers rely on it. Other businesses told The Pointer a lack of parking in downtown Brampton has been an issue. 

Downtown Reimagined was supposed to create “a showpiece urban destination and centre for business, educational, social, and cultural activity.” 


Downtown Reimagined was supposed to redevelop the city’s core into a vibrant and pedestrian-centred, aesthetically and structurally enhanced streetscape. The plan was scrapped after Patrick Brown’s first election in 2018. Roughly six years later, Bramptonians are still waiting to see their withering downtown receive a long needed upgrade.

(Top: City of Brampton; Bottom: Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)


After scrapping the Downtown Reimagined plan, the City, under Brown, has promised a new initiative to replace it, the Integrated Downtown Plan (IDP), but like the state of vacant buildings in Brampton’s city centre, its progress has languished. According to a City webpage, it is supposed to “help coordinate infrastructure upgrades, urban design, land use, and programming interventions - positioning Brampton as a pivotal economic driver, regional cultural hub, and innovation district.” Building on goals set out in the 2040 Vision Master Plan, it is a program intended to span until 2051, when the city is projected to have a population of 1 million residents (if the PC government housing targets under Bill 23 are met, Brampton will reach this figure by 2031). 


A sign in a window of a building along Main Street North. Elected officials have failed to bring investment into Brampton’s struggling downtown.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)


The staff report highlights the City is demonstrating its commitment to revitalizing its downtown and “unlocking the downtown’s potential,” through “addressing the deterioration and structural condition of the buildings on the eastern side of Main Street North.” The properties were left to wither and have now been assessed to pose a risk. Along with the continued delay, plans to invest and transform downtown Brampton remain unclear, with questions about how “committed” elected officials such as Brown, who repeatedly champions budget freezes, truly are to improving the downtown, as long promised. 


A number of properties along Main Street North are vacant. Their condition has been deteriorating with multiple listed as “Not Structurally sound” through a visual structural assessment of the above-ground building superstructures carried out by WSP Canada Inc. “[M]ost of these buildings were deemed not in compliance with the Ontario Building Code requirements and not suitable for occupancy without required remediation work,” a staff report warns.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)


Karla Rumaldo is the owner of Caring Rehabilitation Clinic operating out of 48 Main Street North, which with the approval of the report is one of the properties that staff have been directed to “proceed with continued negotiations to acquire” so it can be demolished as part of the project. 

“I’m a little bit taken back,” she said. She had not heard about the plans for the city to demolish properties along Main Street North until The Pointer got in touch with her. 

She hopes the City is working on “taking care of certain areas” of its downtown that are “not up to par,” and recognizes improvements are needed, but said she was not made aware of the plan and would have liked to have known about the proposed demolition of the building she works out of sooner. 

She said the clinic has been operating at 48 Main Street North for almost two years and she planned on staying longer. “I don’t know how that’s gonna happen now,” she told The Pointer. The lack of communication is not ideal, she said. Opportunities for relocation in downtown Brampton have not been communicated. 


48 Main Street North, according to a staff report, is among the privately-owned properties which the City will seek to acquire in order to carry out the demolition work.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer) 


Demolishing the City-owned properties will require the creation of a new capital project, with the report being approved for a budget amendment to the 2024 Public Works and Engineering capital budget of $6 million for the entire block’s demolition. 

With the report’s approval, a purchasing agent can also now be authorized to “commence the procurement of a demolition contracting firm to proceed with the demolition of the city-owned properties located at 30-46 and 54–60 Main Street North.” 

The City did not respond to The Pointer’s request regarding timelines for each phase (demolition, interim strategies and the ultimate vision). It is unclear when the project will be under construction and completed.



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