By Mario Toneguzzi
A developer is rejuvenating one of Brantford’s oldest still-standing industrial sites to create a vibrant, exciting community of artisans and stores.
Howard Rotberg, president of West Brant Centre Inc., says the project will bring new life into Brantford’s industrial past at the Brantford Cordage, which sprawls over 12 acres of land and 200,000 square feet of building space.
More than 30 different businesses occupy what’s now Artisan’s Village and Cultural District. But Rotberg has plans to renovate the site to include the Heritage Park Mall with 12 new stores, two offices and a restaurant with an outdoor patio in about 30,000 square feet of space.
The development is taking place in a booming part of the city.
“We have developed a lot of the property so far and we’re now proceeding with this 12-store mall,” says Rotberg. “This is formerly Brantford Cordage and it’s the last surviving major heritage industrial site in Brantford, which at one time was the third largest manufacturing exporting city in Canada after Toronto and Montreal. All of the historic factories have been demolished except for this one.”
The Artisans’ Village, of about 100,000 square feet, includes an upscale, gently-used clothing boutique, private music studio, martial arts studio, rope and twine maker, independent boutique publishing house, printer, call centre, custom furniture creator, bookkeeper/office outsourcing venue, fitness and yoga studio, Crossfit venue, photography studio, candle maker, community services, industrial pattern maker, communications company, custom home builder/renovator, vintage motorcycle rejuvenator, residential/commercial master electrician, esthetics spa, micro brewery, real estate offices, Brantford Potters Guild, residential/commercial plumbing services, Minor Baseball Association, retail liquidation outlets, general retail merchandise, gently-used furniture and household goods retail shop, small manufacturers, and an event venue with in-house catering.
Rotberg says the units in the proposed Heritage Park Mall are mostly 1,033 square feet with 20-foot ceilings and the option of a 400-square-foot loft or mezzanine. There is also one larger unit at 5,000 square feet.
“What we thought with Artisans’ Village and Cultural District the way I decided to drive traffic to the spot was to have a lot of that part of Brantford’s culture which is sports, recreation and fitness because I learned over time that support for the arts is there in a small way in Brantford but support for sports is a big part of Brantford’s culture,” says Rotberg.
He says he is currently talking with restaurant people for a 3,500-square-foot establishment with an outdoor patio. And talks are just starting with a wide variety of retailers with the possibility it’s going to be all clothing stores.
Rotberg says architectural plans are drawn up and the developer is waiting for a few stores to commit before going ahead with construction. The hope is to have the mall finished by the spring.
“This is being done in West Brantford which is on the west side of the Grand River. It used to be the poor cousin of the other part of the city and much of the northeast area was developed in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s but then they ran out of space,” says Rotberg, adding that the west side developed in recent years with thousands of newer homes in the area with a middle and upper middle class population.
“On our side of the river, there’s no clothing stores. There’s no sit-down restaurant other than a little greasy spoon and McDonald’s and Starbucks and Tim Hortons. So for all the people who live there we are now the commercial centre of what’s a booming part of west Brantford. We’re now the centre of the only part of Brantford that has developable land.”
Rotberg says the population is growing because people are moving there from Hamilton, Brampton and Mississauga and the Heritage Park Mall will fill a retail void in the west side of Brantford.
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.