Brantford Artisans' Village
Good Things are Made in Brantford!
Newspaper Articles

In the News:

Reprinted from Retail Insider E-News
September 7, 2017:

Unique Shopping Centre to Open at Heritage Industrial Site


By Mario Toneguzzi

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A developer is rejuvenating one of Brantford’s oldest still-standing industrial sites to create a vibrant, exciting community of artisans and stores.

Howard Rotberg, president of West Brant Centre Inc., says the project will bring new life into Brantford’s industrial past at the Brantford Cordage, which sprawls over 12 acres of land and 200,000 square feet of building space.

More than 30 different businesses occupy what’s now Artisan’s Village and Cultural District. But Rotberg has plans to renovate the site to include the Heritage Park Mall with 12 new stores, two offices and a restaurant with an outdoor patio in about 30,000 square feet of space.

The development is taking place in a booming part of the city.

“We have developed a lot of the property so far and we’re now proceeding with this 12-store mall,” says Rotberg. “This is formerly Brantford Cordage and it’s the last surviving major heritage industrial site in Brantford, which at one time was the third largest manufacturing exporting city in Canada after Toronto and Montreal. All of the historic factories have been demolished except for this one.”

The Artisans’ Village, of about 100,000 square feet, includes an upscale, gently-used clothing boutique, private music studio, martial arts studio, rope and twine maker, independent boutique publishing house, printer, call centre, custom furniture creator, bookkeeper/ office outsourcing venue, fitness and yoga studio, Crossfit venue, photography studio, candle maker, community services, industrial pattern maker, communications company, custom home builder/renovator, vintage motorcycle rejuvenator, residential/ commercial master electrician, esthetics spa, micro brewery, real estate offices, Brantford Potters Guild, residential/ commercial plumbing services, Minor Baseball Association, retail liquidation outlets, general retail merchandise, gently-used furniture and household goods retail shop, small manufacturers, and an event venue with in-house catering.

Rotberg says the units in the proposed Heritage Park Mall are mostly 1,033 square feet with 20-foot ceilings and the option of a 400-square-foot loft or mezzanine. There is also one larger unit at 5,000 square feet.

“What we thought with Artisans’ Village and Cultural District the way I decided to drive traffic to the spot was to have a lot of that part of Brantford’s culture which is sports, recreation and fitness because I learned over time that support for the arts is there in a small way in Brantford but support for sports is a big part of Brantford’s culture,” says Rotberg.

He says he is currently talking with restaurant people for a 3,500-square-foot establishment with an outdoor patio. And talks are just starting with a wide variety of retailers with the possibility it’s going to be all clothing stores.

Rotberg says architectural plans are drawn up and the developer is waiting for a few stores to commit before going ahead with construction. The hope is to have the mall finished by the spring.

“This is being done in West Brantford which is on the west side of the Grand River. It used to be the poor cousin of the other part of the city and much of the northeast area was developed in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s but then they ran out of space,” says Rotberg, adding that the west side developed in recent years with thousands of newer homes in the area with a middle and upper middle class population.

“On our side of the river, there’s no clothing stores. There’s no sit-down restaurant other than a little greasy spoon and McDonald’s and Starbucks and Tim Hortons. So for all the people who live there we are now the commercial centre of what’s a booming part of west Brantford. We’re now the centre of the only part of Brantford that has developable land.”

Rotberg says the population is growing because people are moving there from Hamilton, Brampton and Mississauga and the Heritage Park Mall will fill a retail void in the west side of Brantford.

Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email:






Reprinted from The Brantford Expositor - News Brantford/Brant
August 31, 2017:

Mall will have Heritage Look

By Susan Gamble, Brantford Expositor
Photographer: Brian Thompson, Brantford Expositor/PostMedia Network

Thursday, August 31, 2017 11:30:33 EDT PM

Developer Howard Rotberg stands in front of the former rope factory buildings on Sherwood Drive in Brantford,
Ontario on Thursday August 31, 2017. Plans for this portion of the complex will be the Heritage Park Mall at the
Artisans Village and Cultural District. Brian Thompson/Brantford Expositor/Postmedia Network


Already home to some offbeat artistic and recreational stores and groups, an indoor mall is now being built at the site of the old Brantford Cordage rope factory on Sherwood Drive.

The 12-store, 2,800 square-metre mall will use the original architecture of one of the old buildings to both preserve history and offer a dramatically different look to a shopping area that aims to be the opposite of a traditional retail mall.

“We’re not trying to be like Lynden Park Mall but we are hoping to get some experienced local retailers who aren’t wanted by the big malls that want all the chain stores,” said developer Howard Rotberg.

His 4.5-hectare Artisans’ Village & Cultural District on Sherwood has been slowly growing and currently hosts more than 30 tenants in about 18,580 square metres of space.

The new mall, which will be called Heritage Park Mall in Artisans’ Village, will feature 12 indoor stores, two office suites, a historical exhibit area and a restaurant with outdoor patio.

Rotberg is holding a 465-square-metre space for an as-yet-to-be-determined larger use.

With the high ceilings of the original building, the developer says the stores will have an option of creating an upper level of 37 square metres that can be used for storage or office or retail space.

“Having grown up in Brantford, I like preserving some of our industrial heritage buildings,” said Rotberg who spent many hours of his youth in the downtown.

“The intention here is to make you feel like you’re walking down (the old) Colborne Street through the design of the stores and a ‘pretend’ second storey.”

He says the small mall will have lots of natural light, benches and trees.

The entire roof – a $200,000 project – has just been replaced with assistance of financing through Enterprise Brant.

Conceived as a local sister to the Toronto distillery district, the Artisans’ Village has also taken on a uniquely Brantford culture.

While Rotberg initially aimed for an artsy clientele and was a big supporter of the Brantford Arts Block, which had up to 900 square metres at the village before closing operations there in September 2015, he’s welcomed a new culture of fitness and sport-related groups, including Brantford Minor Baseball’s year-round training centre and a new karate facility.

“We’re also in talks with a basketball facility and a local track and field club.”

By planning to give West Brantford a mid-scale, family-type restaurant, he hopes to serve those dropping off kids at sports activities by providing a place to eat and shop.

Current tenants include a micro brewery, custom furniture maker, candle maker, photographer, the Brant Potters studio, a banquet hall, a liquidation store, some contractors, and G & L Ropes where Gino Mercante, who began working at the Cordage as a 15-year-old, continues to make ropes at the age of 75.

Formerly a Kitchener area lawyer, Rotberg has maintained a love of Brantford and its heritage.

He got the old Cordage property on a mortgage foreclosure almost two decades ago and paid off $400,000 in tax arrears, then spent more than $1 million on brownfield remediation, renovations, new roofs and paving.

Five years ago, local builder Dalip Multani became a partner in the venture and, in 2013, after a lawsuit was filed, Rotberg was able to buy out some former investors and get the suit dismissed.

“It’s been a mission of love and devotion to my hometown, which was also my mother’s hometown,” Rotberg says, noting he went through 20 years of “aggravation.”

“Now it has more than 30 tenants of all sorts paying affordable rents and our new 11-store-plus-restaurant mall.

“When the mall is finished I will mostly retire from development work and turn the management over to Multani’s property management division so I can concentrate on my writing and publishing.”

Part of Artisan's Village and Cultural District, located in the former rope factory on Sherwood Drive in Brantford,
Ontario has already been completed and has become home to a variety of commercial tenants. Railroad tracks used
to occupy the gap between these buildings, and the develop had to move in quite a bit of fill to bring the walking
area up to door levels. Brian Thompson/Brantford Expositor/Postmedia Network

Plans for this portion of the Artisans Village and Cultural District, located in the former rope factory on Sherwood
Drive in Brantford, Ontario will be the Heritage Park Mall . Brian Thompson/Brantford Expositor/Postmedia Network

An artist's rendering of the Heritage Park Mall, located within a large part of Artisan's Village and Cultural District,
located in the former rope factory on Sherwood Drive in Brantford, Ontario. Brian Thompson/Brantford
Expositor/Postmedia Network

An artist's rendering of a restaurant and patio, located within a large part of Artisan's Village and Cultural District,
located in the former rope factory on Sherwood Drive in Brantford, Ontario. Brian Thompson/Brantford
Expositor/Postmedia Network

Part of Artisan's Village and Cultural District, located in the former rope factory on Sherwood Drive in Brantford,
Ontario has already been completed and has become home to a variety of commercial tenants. Brian Thompson/Brantford
Expositor/Postmedia Networ

Part of Artisan's Village and Cultural District, located in the former rope factory on Sherwood Drive in Brantford,
Ontario has already been completed and has become home to a variety of commercial tenants. Railroad tracks used
to occupy the gap between these buildings, and the develop had to move in quite a bit of fill to bring the walking
area up to door levels. Brian Thompson/Brantford Expositor/Postmedia Network


Reprinted from The Brantford Expositor - News Brantford/Brant - Culture
May 5, 2014:

Heritage Park opens in Artisans' Village

By Vincent Ball, Brantford Expositor
Photographer: Brian Thompson

Monday, May 5, 2014 10:29:39 EDT AM

(Please see link below to view the video interview Vincent Ball did with Howard Rotberg in conjunction with this news article)

Howard Rotberg has many great memories of growing up in Brantford but one of his favourites is the annual Labour Day Parade.

"We used to go to that every year and we'd be standing on Colborne Street and it was such a great sight to see the workers, with their hats representing various unions, walking by," Rotberg recalled. "When they walked past us we'd be standing there and we'd start to clap.

"My father always had the greatest respect for the working man and that's something he passed on to me."

A lawyer who lived and worked outside of Brantford for many years, Rotberg returned to his hometown years ago and his childhood memories are something he has always enjoyed sharing with others. Now, he is taking reverence for Brantford's industrial past a step further.

Rotberg has opened Heritage Park in a century-old building that was once home to Brantford Cordage -- once one of the largest and among the best-known industries in the city.

"I took charge of restoring this old factory site 17 years ago," Rotberg said of the buildings located at 111 Sherwood Dr. "It's the last surviving major industrial heritage site from Brantford's glory years of 15 large manufacturing plants.

"We've kept most of the building here and we've redeveloped them."

The area is now known as the Brantford Artisans' Village and Cultural District. It is an area dedicated to those who create products as well as a testament to the city's past. The village is home to the Brantford Arts Block, 20 different artisans making different products, and will soon be home to the Brantford Potters' Guild.

The Heritage Park component of the village showcases the city's industrial history.

"We've assembled old photographs and articles about Brantford's industries so younger people or people who maybe are living here but aren't from Brantford can learn about the city's past," Rotberg said. "What I like about this project is that it gives me an opportunity to bring about a cultural change in Brantford.

"We have a proud history and once we understand that, we can move forward and do great things instead of moaning and groaning about what we've lost."

Plans call for an outdoor component to be added to the park and songs dedicated to the working man and woman -- Dolly Parton's Nine to Five and Donna Summer's She Works Hard for the Money are but two examples -- play as visitors tour the site.

The district includes some 200,000 square-feet of building space and about half of that is a century old.

"There were as many as 900 people working on this site at one time. There were trains that would come in and they'd load up train cars," Rotberg said. "We kept it going as warehousing operations with small industrial shops until I had the time and the money to turn it into an Artisans' Village.

"This is a place for artisans, for people who appreciate culture and not just high culture, the totality of culture, that's centered in Brantford and has always been here."

Developer Howard Rotberg stands inside the entrance to the Brantford Heritage Park Artisans' Village at
111 Sherwood Drive, which opened for the first time this weekend in the former Brantford Cordage factory.

Appeared in The Brantford Expositor, May 5, 2014

Reprinted from Brant News
December 9, 2011:

Idea to promote the arts
Howard Rotberg with plans for the 'Brantford Artisans Village'

Photographer: Sean Allen
by Sean Allen

Howard Rotberg has a soft spot for Brantford.

“Even though a lot of my family relocated, this is still home,” Rotberg said.

That soft spot is why the retired lawyer, now a real estate developer, is pursuing a project that won’t be the most cost-effective use of 15 acres of former industrial buildings in West Brant.

But Rotberg said plans for the “Brantford Artisans Village” fit his personal motto of making some money and doing good for the community.

“These kind of projects give me a lot of satisfaction,” he said.

The vision for the site includes 250,000 square feet of space rented to crafters, artists and designers who would use the restored Brantford Cordage factory buildings as both a place to work on their crafts and sell them. “I think small shops are the future and we can act as an incubator,” Rotberg said. “The guy who needs space to do his woodworking will have that space and the ability to open up a little shop, as well. It becomes a people space and draws in other businesses.”

The property, at 111 Sherwood Dr., was in Rotberg’s family from the 1960s to the late 1980s. Since buying it back in a mortgage foreclosure, Rotberg has been using the site for industrial warehousing.

“Being an old complex, we charge a lot less for space, but the market has been changing,” Rotberg said. “So many industrial places closed and we have so much empty industrial space in this city it makes no sense to continue trying to rent it out.”

Given the growth of West Brant and limited commercial amenities available in that growing area of the city, Rotberg said a “people place” like the envisioned artisans village would be a welcome addition.

“Brantford’s history is of a place that makes things and that is the slogan we came up with for our site,” he said. “Good things are made in Brantford.”

Rotberg said to expect slow growth on the project, starting with an outdoor crafters marketplace as early as June 2012.

Reprinted from Brantford Expositor
November 30, 2011:

New vision pitched for industrial site
by Michael-Allan Marion, Expositor Staff

Picture a near century-old industrial complex on Sherwood Drive transformed into an artisans village and crafts marketplace, humming with activity and amusements for a growing West Brant.

That's the dream of Howard Rotberg.

He was born and raised in Brantford and left a law practice in Kitchener-Waterloo 16 years ago to return home and pursue developing real estate projects with a "double bottom line" - they must make money but also do some social good.

With several successful local projects under his belt, Rotberg is bidding to turn a 15-acre, 250,000 square-foot-industrial complex known as Brantford Cordage at 111 Sherwood Dr. and the former Magnetic Metals building on Spalding Drive into an affordable incubator for smaller businesses.

Rotberg's father, Leon, bought the complex in 1966 and the family ran it until 1988 when it was sold. The family took it back in a mortgage foreclosure, paid off back taxes accumulated by the former owner, and tried to earn income by turning it into a warehousing operation.

But with about one million square feet of empty warehouse space in the Brantford area, Rotberg has decided it's time to go small or go home. The complex of buildings will be remodelled to suit smaller entrepreneurs.

Rotberg has a three-fold mission: to save the site's heritage elements, provide more public gathering places, and nurture tourist potential. "Brantford's heritage, of course, is highly industrial, yet, of the main historical factories, only our buildings remain in use," he said.

"The sites for the farm implement factories, like Massey Ferguson, Cockshutt White Farm, and other buildings have been demolished or sit mostly vacant, leaving problematic brown-fields."

Rotberg said he believes Brantford must nurture smaller shops that provide products, which can't be mass produced in China.

"There are obviously logistical problems to have all products made overseas, and Brantford is ideally located for small craftsman and shop owners to supply the southern Ontario market with more custom products that aren't done overseas."

Rotberg has saved many of the original century-old buildings and the old rope manufacturing plant, and is renting out industrial-commercial units or warehousing.

The transition will start in the spring. Some buildings near the front of the complex will be refurbished first. Gravel roads will be paved, and a new landscaped entrance will be fashioned.

Some craftsmen are already renting units, such as Tart'n Ceramics, P. Clarke Woodworking, Primetal Stairs and Railings, Amjay Ropes, Grand River Patterns and T. Shippan Restored Exotic Cars and Boats.

"It will be Brantford's version of the Distillery District in Toronto," he said in an interview Tuesday afternoon in his office at the site.

"Due to land values here, it will be more modest, but will have its own charm. It's not going to be a raucous place with bars, but something for everyone." Each building in the complex could be given a new adaptable reuse, while preserving and enhancing the exterior.

"We intend to acid wash the bricks, install high-end windows and doors and create some glassed-in entrance atriums, along with nice walkways, landscaping, a fountain and benches and antique lamps."

Rotberg said he believes the plan is both innovative and realistic. Homes have been built for 5,000 people in the newer part of West Brant, and about as many more are planned. Yet, there is only new large plaza and two smaller ones.

He said that the transformed complex could serve as a centre for the growing West Brant.

Rotberg presented his plans to about two-dozen area residents Tuesday evening.

Many had a lot of questions about the traffic that would come from a lot of small businesses.

"There's not going to be a Costco," Rotberg told them.

"I'm not dreaming like some big developer from Toronto with grandiose ideas. This is Brantford. Don't expect an awful lot at first. It will take time."

Many welcomed the proposed development.

"It all sounds good," said Mary Chapin. "I'm just hoping that I'll still be around to see some of this happen."

Her husband, Jack, said he is cautiously optimistic about the plans.

"I think it will be all right if he can get it doing. A lot of the place is already getting cleaned up."

© West Brant Centre Inc. 2012~2017 ♦ All Rights Reserved
♦ Brantford Artisans' Village & Cultural District ♦ Artisans' VillageHeritage Park