Students reimagine hard-hit town of Batawa, Ont.

Widow of Bata shoes founder turns to architecture and design students for help


 

According to this story in The Globe and Mail, a group of design and architecture students from Carleton University are brainstorming some radical ideas on how to reinvent Batawa, Ont.’s hard-hit former manufacturing economy.

Once the home of the Canadian headquarters of the Bata Ltd. shoe factory, which closed in 1999 due to cost competition from developing countries, the town has becoming increasingly rundown. But the 82-year-old widow of the shoe company’s founder, Thomas Bata, is doing her best to turn the tide.

Sonja Bata still owns 610 hectares of land and a five-storey factory in the town.  She says she is hoping that Carleton, along with other colleges or universities, will take up space in the old shoe factory, creating a “knowledge hub” that would share the building with more than 70 condos. She also wants to build 500 new houses in the town, which currently has 120.

The community redesign project started with a few industrial design and architecture projects. But according to both Bata and Katherine Graham, Carleton University’s public affairs dean, they anticipate long-term collaboration, spanning business to government to urban planning.

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