Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 5, 2014
Although present in my column’s tagline, I have not often used this column to set records straight as it pertains to the operations of Renaissance Brandon.
I believe the column at its basest nature is more about finding what is good in this community, and should there be a need to question a decision, striving to seek solutions to a problem or two in the process.
But this week, wearing my Renaissance Brandon hat tightly atop my head, I wanted to take a moment to share what is underway. As chair of this board for close to two years, we have witnessed a great deal of change as it pertains to our makeup. That change includes board members coming and going, challenges to our funding models and ultimately, as reflected this past week in the editorial portion of the Brandon Sun, an evolution of sorts as we strive to move Renaissance Brandon into a new vein of its existence.
Our neighbours to the east have provided a framework that has always been a goal of our board to strive to in achieving. The CentreVenture model has had some great successes at the helm of Winnipeg’s downtown development, but was not without its share of hurdles in turning the corner on core revitalization.
The model has gone through an evolution over the past two-thirds of a decade after being started with a mega investment by city council, which chose to leverage $10 million in public funds through credit lines, as well as a surplus property gift of more than 25 civic-owned tracts of land in Winnipeg’s downtown.
As mentioned in the Sun, the CentreVenture board operates hands-off from council, and aside from an honorary chair to embattled Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz, the board is independent of political involvement.
Renaissance Brandon’s board, as many know, has held a spot for two councillors and the mayor since its inception, although in recent years only a single councillor has sat at the table along with the mayor. Both have provided valuable insight into how to work best within the frameworks of our mandate. In the case of the Rosser ward, Renaissance Brandon boundaries encompass more than half of the ward boundaries at a civic level, so in the beginning some synergies needed to exist.
There is little doubt we are faced with challenges in the downtown. Unlike Winnipeg’s example, where downtown is the heart of the city’s management, government and financial district, Brandon has sprawled off in all directions, causing a hollowing out of services to a certain extent in the downtown area.
This shared review of our mandate will look at the best practices to serve this unique region. It is tremendously positive, and the end result of that review should clear up some of the grey areas.
This council, much like the last one, sees value in downtown investment. Where that value is best served remains to be seen, but positives can come out of this time invested in reshaping the board and its mandate.
The challenges still exist. This board, along with council, is continually pressed in finding adequate business and residential opportunities in the downtown, as well as looking for suitable new ventures to consider the benefits of building or establishing in the renaissance district.
So, what’s next? Renaissance Brandon and city council are reviewing all facets of the operations of the downtown development corporation. Out of this review should come an updated and positive mandate moving forward, and a further alignment with the vision as it was set forth.
Whether that means a complete split with political involvement on the board remains to be seen, but it may stand as a first step to consider when deciding how best to complete the tasks the board is shouldered with in core area development.
From a management standpoint, Renaissance Brandon needs to challenge itself and better share its successes with community members so they see value in the venture. Operations like the new YMCA would not have seen the light of day had it not been for the foresight to have a plan in cleaning up old properties in place of new growth.
The same could be said for the future of the Ninth Street and Princess Avenue corner, where a new and more positive venture can emerge, a venture aligned with the values and strengths we hope for in the downtown.
It has taken time and will continue to in making sure the board is on the right track. It is important that residents believe they receive value for their dollars spent in downtown revitalization, and this review is a tremendously positive step in an evolution that is more a marathon than a sprint.
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