Concept rendering of people strolling through reimagined downtown Brampton

Photograph courtesy City Of Brampton

Brampton 2040: How a community helped plan the city of the future

From a biodome to a new town centre, Brampton worked together to plan for their city

Eleven-year-old Anuj Yeole knows what he wants Brampton to look like. He thinks improved technology could help build the city, and his vision for its future includes more renewable energy. “If we look 30 or 40 years into the future, we might even forbid cars and find new ways of transportation,” he wrote in a speech that he presented to the Brampton 2040 Vision team earlier this year. The project aims to create a long-term plan for the city over the next 22 years. “With today’s technology, we can make this amazing city into the city of the future.”

Eleven-year-old Anuj Yeole wearing black pants and white shirt walking through downtown Brampton

Not many cities would take the thoughts of an 11-year-old so seriously when it comes to mapping out its future potential. But to build a city that people will want to stay, work, play and live in, its residents—young and old—were exactly who the Brampton 2040 imagination project turned to for ideas. Rather than simply huddling heads with local politicians, business leaders and city planners to create a vision, the team relied on input from those most affected by the city makeover: the more than 500,000 residents of Brampton, Ont. It was to them they put the question: What do you want for your city? (Anju Outside City Hall / Photography By Devendra Yeole)

Consulting the community was the only way to create Brampton 2040, says Larry Beasley, the urban planner with Vancouver-based Beasley & Associates Inc., who worked on the project. “Without that, you’re just reading the tea leaves.”

The consultation, which involved input from some 13,000 participants, was essential, he says, given that the reimagination involved a major suburb and not an urban core. “You couldn’t have a credible vision unless you let it be anchored with the people and their ideas,” Beasley says. “As planners and urban designers, we don’t understand suburban community needs in the way we should—we’ve been focusing too much on core cities and on typical urban solutions.”

Larry Beasley urban planner with Vancouver-based Beasley & Associates Inc wearing light blue shirt

To find out what people wanted, the project invited people to share and vote for ideas via a website, connected land lines for residents to leave ideas in a voicemail box and sent out street teams to circle the city and gather feedback. The latter was especially important. “We went to local hospitals, parks, recreational centres, homeless shelters and soup kitchens to really target everyone who doesn’t usually have a voice in these things,” says Antonietta Minichillo, project manager with Brampton’s Strategic Development. (Larry Beasley / Photography By Marina Dodis)

From there, the data was analyzed via workshops to distil the most common ideas. Ten themes emerged, ranging from creating jobs locally and connecting transportation to growing a greener Brampton. “One thing that excites me about this is we’re going to plant more trees,” 11-year-old Yeole says. “Our goal is to plant one million trees by 2040.”

“We went to local hospitals, parks, recreational centres, homeless shelters and soup kitchens to really target everyone who doesn’t usually have a voice in these things.”

A few themes proved more popular than others—a free transit option was test run by local high schools and was at the top of the to-do list. Another wish was raising the “play” aspect of Brampton, whether that meant bringing together local, organized sports or creating a “Brampton Arts Street” that would be home to studios and workshops. “The missing fun factor echoed constantly from young to old,” Beasley says. “It dramatically shaped what we finally proposed.” (For instance, one of the final ideas in the vision was to develop an “Uptown” and redo the “Downtown” to add jobs, but also to amp up the fun factor.) Another wish was to incorporate “eye-candy” by fashioning beautifully designed communities filled with “handsome buildings.”

The plan—which includes a new sports centre, solar field, biodome, festival area, central park, cultural centre, art gallery, preserved historic buildings, retail laneways and a town square complete with a canal—was unanimously endorsed by Brampton City Council in early May. And, as the city begins to implement the plans for the project, all those in the community who helped shape it are also now more likely to adopt it, Minichillo says. “Now we know that we have the foundation for the vision and can move forward with a plan that addresses people’s wants, hopes and dreams for the place they call home.”