If necessity is the mother of all invention, our origin story is no exception. Brick & Mortar was born out of late, solitary nights spent pourring over brick-thick reports on urban development and economics. In most cases, those reports were filled with fascinating insights about how to build better, smarter cities and craft stronger, more robust local economies – but they were often painful to read and missing some serious practical, logistical considerations towards implementation. The result? Expensive, unread and overly academic bricks that used broad strokes to address specific issues and spent years gathering dust while doing little to orient public policy, strategy or creativity.
With that in mind, we’ve made it our mission to craft engaging, applicable and contextual solutions to help those looking to breathe new life into Main Streets and Downtowns, or to build healthy commercial districts from the ground up.
While Downtowns and Main Streets certainly share traits and similarities, there’s an almost infinite number of factors and differentiators that shape the way communities react and adapt to change and pressure. Sometimes, solutions require intricate new ideas and policy changes. In other cases, it’s simply a matter of tweaking existing approaches to cater to an area’s unique needs and demographics.
Our approach relies on a wide-scoped, data-driven and comprehensive understanding of an area’s unique policies, dynamics and particularities to craft proposals that are truly adapted and realistic for each community.
Having spent years straddling the line between policy makers, small business owners, commercial developers and consumers, we take great pride in our ability to translate across interests, bring different stakeholders to the table and find common ground for common growth. While our work is centered around a thorough understanding of our client’s challenges and objectives, it also puts great weight in the importance of grasping the wider picture within which every commercial hub exists and evolves. That means engaging in active dialogue with everyone involved, openly sharing the latest data and best practices, and keeping some elbow room within our process for ever-evolving ideas, realities and objectives.
Our approach leverages continuous communication, flexibility and simplicity to keep stakeholders feeling involved, heard and understood throughout our complete cycle of analysis, proposal, implementation, assessment and adjustment
While we may all be looking to Scandinavia with wild dreams of magically transforming our cities into wealthy, sophisticated havens dotted with endless bicycle paths, quaint outdoor markets and bustling street festivals; we often shoot ourselves in the foot by turning a blind eye to the limitations and possibilities defined by an area’s planning policies, zoning regulations, political will, local culture, existing commercial offering and history. Too often, the baby is thrown out with the bath water because of simple, pragmatic considerations that were overlooked or ignored – leaving Town Centers with mediocre, uninspired and half-baked projects that indefinitely maintain the status quo and hinder economic performance.
Our approach harnesses years of experience crafting, implementing and improving urban development projects in order to identify, evaluate, prioritize and structure all of the nitty-gritty details that can make or break the most inspired and innovative of projects.
4. International Inspiration - Local Application
If there’s one thing that came out of those long, intense evenings hunched over thousands of pages outlining urban development theories and examples across the world, it’s an acute awareness and curiosity about what has caused projects to thrive and fail across the globe. As it turns out, most of the world’s Main streets and Downtowns are facing similar issues. And while we strongly believe in the importance of innovation, customization and creativity, we’re also eager to avoid the mistakes of others, build upon existing knowledge and tailor our solutions based on tried-and-tested principles implemented far beyond our own municipal, provincial or national boundaries.
Our approach is fundamentally open to the world; seeking out the best and brightest minds, ideas and analysis to inform and adapt its understanding of an area’s challenges, needs and potential opportunities.
As a commercial development consultant and the founder of Brick & Mortar, Glenn Castanheira has spent over a decade honing a unique expertize and interest in Downtowns and Main Streets.With a professional and academic background in both the public and private sectors, he’s had the opportunity to witness, learn and implement best practices defined and tested around the world.
Expert in public policies, Glenn was the economic and commercial adviser to the Mayor of Montreal where he helped implement a variety of mesures aimed to support the city’s Main Streets. Among them, the Small Business Plan and Canada’s first financial aid program for businesses affected by major road work.
Born and raised in a family of shop owners, Glenn also headed the Saint-Laurent Boulevard Business Association, one of Montreal’s pillar arteries affectionately known as The Main. There until 2015, he orchestrated an ambitious and successful revamping of what was once a street brought down by botched road work in 2006-2007 and severe blight. Amongst his most recognizable feats within that mandate was his revitalization plan earning a myriad of prizes including the Grand Prix Strat 2014 and the Grand prix du tourisme québécois in both 2014 and 2016 as well as the title of one of the « 9 Greatest Streets Around The World. ». The Québec government soon took notice of the Main’s renewed identity, officially declaring it a tourist area in 2015.
Glenn has also distinguished himsef in Montreal’s economic development having served as Vice President of the CDEC Centre-Sud / Plateau Mont-Royal (now PME-MTL) – an organization tasked with fostering and overseeing territorial economic development – and held executive seats at Montreal’s Commercial Development Association and Culture Montréal.