By Robin MacLennan
Ontario Construction News Editor
A massive four-tower development, the largest in the city’s history has received initial approval from Barrie’s planning committee. Council is expected to approve the site plan at its meeting tonight.
The plan by Smart Centres, on behalf of Barrie Lakeshore Developments (Greenwin Barrie and a numbered Ontario company), includes heights of 46, 39, 36 and 25 storeys and would add more than 1,900 residential units between Bradford Street and Lakeshore Drive.
The rezoning and Official Plan for the 8.6-acre property has initial approval of city councillors.
“I recognize that not everyone is happy with the proposal. The reality is that Barrie is changing and growing whether we like it or not,” ward councillor Keenan Aylwin said at Monday’s committee meeting.
“The province as we know dictates that we will be growing to a population of 210,00 by 2031 and up to more than 250,000 by 2041 and a substantial amount of that growth will be taking place with in our urban growth centre; our downtown and our waterfront.”
Recognizing those targets are set by the province, Aylwin says city councillors should “try our best” to respect existing neighbourhoods and ensure that the development reflects the vision of what the city can be.
“The reality is that this city has grown over the past few decades is not sustainable. Sprawling suburban development puts a lot of stress on our infrastructure and it can hamper our ability to deliver services in a cost-effective manner.”
The solution? More dense and complete communities and walkable communities will be more efficient environmentally and more sustainable, economically.
So Barrie’s goal is to attract development that enables people to walk or cycle to work, to the store and other amenities.
“It’s more environmentally sustainable when we are not paving over farmland,” Aylwin said. “Tax dollars … we are more effectively and efficiently able to deliver services when communities are dense and compact.”
However, the Smart Centres development is a significant departure from the existing style of development in the city and neighbours are not happy. The site-plan control application for phase one includes a 25-storey tower fronting Lakeshore Drive with 152 hotel rooms and 230 residential units.
The site plan application is to be sent to council today with a report from staff for approval – normally site plan approvals are delegated to planning staff.
“This is the largest development in the city’s history,” said Mayor Jeff Lehman. “We need to have public discussion around this. There is a significant portion of our population, residents of Barrie, who have real concerns with this height. This may not be popular for us to approve it.”
Despite concerns about the height of the buildings, councillors rejected a motion to ask the developer to consider changes.
“This site has been vacant for too long,” said Councillor Clare Riepma. “It is connected to the waterfront, downtown and highly visible. For sure, we need to get it right.”
Buildings on either side of the development are 15 storeys high.
Variances to development standards include an increase in the project’s maximum total gross floor area, less commercial floor area than the minimum required, and more height.
This project also includes a parking garage, open space and environmental protection land.
City planning staff have said the detailed design for this project is ongoing, and that the principle of development and zoning standards have been given initial approval to this point.