Reinventing Brantford


Short-listed for the 2012 Speaker’s Award

One hundred years ago, the City of Brantford advertised itself as the most important manufacturing centre in Canada. During the century that followed, its industrial economy boomed, faltered, and finally collapsed. By the end of the twentieth century, Brantford was known for unemployment, hard luck, and the infamy of having "the worst downtown in Canada." For twenty years the downtown was in steep decline. Significant attempts at urban revival had failed until Wilfrid Laurier University decided to locate a campus in the heart of Brantford’s crumbling city centre.

Leo Groarke revisists the grandeur of the city’s past, explores the economic downfall, and tells the story of the arrival of the university, its early struggles, its commitment to historic restoration, and its ultimate success as a catalyst for urban renewal. The compelling story he recounts will engage anyone interested in the plight of the North-American city core and the role that universities and colleges can play in re-establishing downtowns as vibrant centres of historical and contemporary importance.


The Speaker’s Award


One might be tempted to dismiss this volume as local history with little relevance beyond Brantford. Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Implicit in this story of urban renewal are lessons that can be applied in any community as the post-modern shift from suburbanization and sprawl to infill and an information age continues.

Record, The

Dr.Groarke tells the story well in "Reinventing Brantford." His passion is obvious, as is a measure of pride in what was achieved. For every reader, especially those living in small cities that need a new direction, this book cannot help but inspire. (November, 2011)

About the Author

Leo Groarke

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014
Leo Groarke photo

Leo Groarke

Leo Groarke, Principal of the Brantford campus of Wilfrid Laurier University, has been the senior administrator of the campus since 2000. He studied at University of Calgary, Simon Fraser University, University of Helsinki, and received a PhD in Philosophy from University of Western Ontario in 1982.