I think I have the same feelings of ambivalence towards the development of the Laurier Brantford University that a lot of people have towards it.
On one hand, the University should be congratulated for the restoration work it has carried out, the fact that previously underused buildings are now being used. The fact that it's remaking Victoria Park into some sort of University Quad is excellent. The fact that older building have new life and excitement. There is the belief that businesses which can reach out for the students are doing quite well.
Yet to many quarters there is a concern about the direction the City is taking as it pertains to the University. More then one voice has opined that as far as the City is concerned, whatever the University wants, the University gets. One of the proofs is the whole destruction, no sorry, redevelopment of the south side of Colborne Street. It was torn down with no real plan in view, although there was always talk of a joint University/Y sports complex. It was considered something the downtown core needed, plans were drawn up and it has been announced
It seems the plans won an award for best looking plans.
Then again, the question is being asked, does the city need another sports complex when it has already did work renovating the Gretzky Centre- and certainly there was a lot of problems over that one wasn't there.
The issue is, the new athletic centre is going to cost the people of Brantford 5.8 million dollars. They have made this committment, saying the funds are going to come from the percentage the city receives from the Casino.
Now couple this with the fact that a domiciliary hostel is closing its doors. The owners went before City Council for a funding request and they were turned down. To be fair, three other facilities were turned down as well. They requested funding of $198,000. So now 17 people are looking for a place to live.
Then again, its not the University's fault. I'm sure no one in the administration is saying 'decide between us or a bunch of old people'.
But for the downtown, the University has done a lot of good, besides the life and the fact there are now people downtown, it has led to some nice construction.
Now we have the news, and I'm going to call it 'good news' of Conestoga College entering into a partnership with Laurier Brantford to offer business courses and degrees.
Yet at the same time, the City had a negative view of Mohawk College, one headline spoke of the City and Mohawk being at odds.
What I'm thinking about all of this is, this is a time of transition for Brantford. It's years of being an industrial dynamo are long gone-perhaps it might be best just to bulldoze all that brownfield just to remove all reminders of the glorious industrial past, and realize this is the information age- content and knowledge are the new muscle and Brantford is taking full advantage of it.
Transition times are always bumpy. People are feeling ignored and foolish at time, lines are drawn in the sand and there is a lot of finger pointing. What is the outcome of all this? Probably a better city.
What Brantford has to remind itself is a balance needs to be established and then maintain. There needs to be a stronger partnership with all the stakeholders of the downtown.
It will be a challenge but let's hope it can be achieved.