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New future focused retail concepts for Downtown Brantford
Client: Wilfrid Laurier University


In 2014 Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario acquired a defunct mall in downtown Brantford where the university has a secondary campus. With over 330,000 square feet of space, WLU had clear plans for university uses for areas of the mall, now called One Market. These plans included new classrooms and an international college, however they felt there was an opportunity to animate the space and reinvigorate the downtown campus. We were asked to support the university to rethink how the mall could be used to develop new experiential retail and cultural spaces that would engage both students and the local community.



We identified and analyzed a range of global precedents from Neighborhood Goods future-focused department stores in the US, to Kerb food markets in London and even axe throwing leagues in Hamilton. We used these precedents to generate a wide range of concepts for One Market and adapted them to meet the opportunity in Brantford.


We engaged the local Brantford community and students using design thinking principles to understand which concepts resonated, and assessed which had the greatest potential commercial impact to create a short-list of prioritized concepts.


We wrote a proposal to the city for funding for a cultural hub which would transform an abandoned movie theatre in the mall into a thriving cultural hub with a 250 seat performance space for the local community and a modern art-house cinema.


We created propositions, interior design plans and commercial business cases for the two key prioritized concepts, a Canadian made general store stocking up- and-coming canadian brands across a range of categories and a street food market designed to incubate and support food traders and restaurants looking to launch and grow their presence in Brantford. These recommendations were captured in reports and shared with key stakeholders.


The university has received commitment from the city of Brantford for the initial funding to develop the cultural hub concept which has progressed to an architectural design phase. The university is currently progressing with the General Store and Street Food Market concepts, with construction due to start soon and a launch scheduled for 2023. We are all looking forward to watching a live performance, grabbing a bite to eat and doing a little shopping at the General Store when the concepts all come to life next year.

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