I grew up in Heart Lake, and for a few years (90 to 94 ish), I worked at Pizzaville, back when it beside McDonalds. Because you could buy a slice for a buck, our storefront was a crowded place, full of teens and 20-somethings, hanging out, messing around with their cars, and buying just enough slices to keep my boss from chasing them away (usually with a handful of nickels). Once the Tim Hortons went in, and Pizzaville moved in beside the old Blockbuster, the crowd moved over a little bit, and Timmies is largely the place to be. Just last summer, I avoided that location since I didn’t want to elbow my way through the crowd.
Why am I talking about this?
The City of Brampton had an opportunity to create a public square, with a large format TV Screen. And where did they build it? Did they build it at the Heart Lake Town Centre, where for decades a large crowd of bored young people gathered? Of course not. They built it in an empty square in Downtown Brampton, in order to attract a crowd to a specific place.
Now don’t get me wrong. Downtown Brampton has made a success of the project. It has been good for Downtown Brampton. On occassion, especially the World Cup, that screen draws a crowd. That’s a good thing. But that “good thing” that draws a crowd also has an opportunity cost: there is still a crowd whose needs are still being ignored.
The reality is, Four Corners received the Big Screen because of a bias: the desire to build a Downtown combined with a refusal to consider building that Downtown anywhere but in Four Corners. But why not the Heart Lake Town Centre? It’s almost as large as the Four Corners area, see for yourself:
In fact, if you include the Library, the Rec Centre and the lands that will soon be redeveloped into high density “downtown like” housing and highrises, well, Four Corners starts to look even smaller:
In Brampton, we always seem to ask: “How can we use this money to make Four Corners better?” and the Media Screen is no exception.
The question should be: “If we are going to build a large format media screen, to create a public square, where should we do that?” We never ask that question. Not about the Media Screen, not about the University.
And so, even 24 years after my last shift making pizzas, the large crowd of bored youth in Heart Lake will still be hanging around in the parking lot, buying just enough $1.00 drinks to keep the owners from chasing them away.
I’ll leave you with this, ponder the cultural impact of Heart Lake Media Square in cleaning up the entrance ways of shops and restaurants, providing clean outdoor recreation space for youth, providing a community space for boards and postings, creating another space for movies under the stars for Heart Lake families, reclaiming some underused parking spaces and creating a more urban environment, and creating space for the new residents of the hotly debated new development to occupy in a positive way:
#MayorJackson2018 thinks about All of Brampton. And Heart Lake is #AlsoBrampton