Discussing innovative city planning and a pioneering vision for the City of Brampton with Chief Building Official, Rick Conard
From industrial roots in the 19th century that earnt it the title of ‘the flower town of Canada’, the City of Brampton today continues to blossom as the jewel in Ontario’s crown.
“Defined by its energy, Brampton is shifting, and it’s all happening now,” opens Rick Conard, Chief Building Official for the City of Brampton.
“I take great pride in working for the City of Brampton as the ninth largest and fastest growing big city in Canada,” he continued.
Indeed, the City of Brampton today is shaped by continual innovation, defined by the city’s pioneering urban mobility initiatives, and environmentally sustainable approach to city planning, as evidenced by the city’s ongoing ‘Brampton 2040 Vision’.
As such, the city continues to be carried on a promising tide of change.
“Brampton is on the verge of a significant and deliberate transformation. We’re energized with new knowledge and are inspired by a new way of thinking,” Conard continues.
Conard himself has worked for the City since 2008 and came to the role of Chief Building Official for the City of Brampton in 2016, after 25 years working within the construction industry, the majority of which were spent in the role of municipal building official. Prior to this, Conard gained an academic background as a graduate of the Civil Engineering Technology Program at Fanshawe College, with a master’s Certificate in Municipal Leadership from the Schulich School of Business. As an upcoming M.Sc. graduate (October 2021) in Management of Innovation and Technology from the Lazaridis School of Business, Conard is well-versed in the two areas that best define the City of Brampton today.
A VISIONARY CITY
Conard’s aforementioned ‘new way of thinking’ encompasses the prioritization of innovation and entrepreneurship, designed to promote job creation and foster technological breakthroughs. This is best embodied by the city’s 2040 vision that was adopted in mid-2018.
“The 2040 vision sets a strong direction to position Brampton as a world class city by 2040,” Conard comments.
A strategy that is both inspirational and aspirational, the vision covers all sectors of the city’s operations, whether it’s Brampton’s recognition as a Smart City, to the burgeoning arts scene that makes it a true destination for culture.
The ongoing success of the 2040 vision was affirmed earlier this year, as Brampton was officially ranked as a leading city of the future and prime investment location by fDi Intelligence – a division of the Financial Times. In a ranking that considers factors such as economic potential, business friendliness, human capital, and connectivity amongst others, Brampton was acknowledged for its vast opportunities paving the way in innovation, with a competitive talent pool. Ranked #13 best community in Canada (out of 415 by MacLean’s Magazine 2021).
As Conard affirms, “our workforce gives us a competitive edge and makes us a national leader for attracting, developing and retaining new jobs and talent.”
This is largely thanks to the city’s ongoing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) strategy, that has a core focus on Brampton’s primary sectors, comprising innovation and technology, advanced manufacturing, food and beverage processing and health and life sciences. Most recently, expansion and business retention have been added as key areas of focus.
BUILDING THE CITY OF BRAMPTON, SUSTAINABLY
As a key tenet of the City of Brampton’s visionary strategy is the commitment to sustainable living, with initiatives such as walkable neighborhoods on the horizon.
“The City of Brampton takes a comprehensive approach to planning and designing sustainable communities,” Conard comments. He goes on to highlight the Sustainable Community Program as the framework to further these commitments.
“Within this, new development consists of the Sustainable Community Development Guidelines (SCDGs) and the Sustainability Assessment Tool (SAT), which are designed to measure the environmental sustainability performance of new development applications,” he explains.
“The Sustainable Community Development Guidelines provide direction to development proponents and acts as a basis for the city to review development applications with a focus on environmental sustainability.
“The SCDGs encourage and guide development at a level of planning and design that focuses on the community as a whole. The guidelines may be general in nature but provide direction in shaping and structuring community design.”
The City of Brampton’s pioneering urban mobility initiatives are instrumental in this regard, both in terms of mitigating environmental impact whilst enhancing social connectivity. At the forefront of this movement is the Brampton Transit project, a green mobility scheme based entirely on electric buses.
“Brampton Transit is currently one of the fastest growing transit systems in Canada, providing service on 72 routes using 470 buses operating out of two major facilities,” Conard explains.
Brampton’s ridership growth of 38 percent over the three years before COVID-19 (2016-2019) was unprecedented compared to the average increase in Ontario of 2.3 percent and the national average increase of 6.9 percent over the same period. Throughout 2019, Brampton Transit provided over 31.9 million trips within the city to adjacent municipalities across the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area.
It is an area that the City of Brampton will continue to focus on with dedicated expansion efforts, with the fleet of buses set to increase from 470 to 513 buses by 2022, with the construction of a suitable new facility currently underway.
“Brampton Transit is proud to be participating in the first-of-its kind electric bus demonstration and integration trial. The unprecedented initiative has brought multiple levels of government, bus and charger manufacturers, system integrators, academia, and funding partners together to implement electric buses in Brampton,” Conard explains.
Currently in Phase One of the Trial, Brampton has eight battery electric buses and four high-powered overhead chargers, currently operating on two routes in the City.
Brampton is committed to building a regionally connected city that offers reliable transit supporting access to services and jobs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the overall health of the community.
The Hurontario LRT (HuLRT) is one such project that will form a reliable and rapid transport corridor between the Brampton Gateway Terminal at Steeles Avenue in Brampton and the Port Credit GO Station in Mississauga.
“The HuLRT will form part of a seamless integrated regional transportation network that will connect Brampton with the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).”
Along with the HuLRT, an extension of this LRT is being planned from the Brampton Gateway Terminal at Steeles Avenue to the Downtown Terminal at Nelson Street.
Connecting to the vibrant Downtown Brampton, GO Bus and Train service and local transit routes.
“This will transform Hurontario Street into a vibrant people-oriented corridor connecting communities and accommodating growth anticipated over the next 30 years,” he tells us.
As well, Brampton is planning for an east-west regional connection with a 24-kilometer Bus Rapid Transit service along Queen Street from Mississauga Road in Brampton to Helen Street in York Region.
These upcoming transit projects will further create a well-connected city that is poised to welcome growth and transformation.
As Conard states, “it’s a place where people want to live, learn, work, play and prosper.”