Intensification changing the face of Barrie as the city grows up instead of out

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By John Devine

Special to Ontario Construction News

With Barrie designated as one of the province’s place to grow communities, this city on the shores of Kempenfelt Bay is under intensification orders that will see it literally grow up over the coming decades.

It’s changing the face of this city, which only had a population of about 50,000 as recently as 30 years ago. According to the City’s Fast Facts, 141,434 called Barrie home in 2016.

Under the provincial growth plan, Barrie is forecast to grow by an additional 107,000 people by 2041, bringing the number of people calling Barrie home to a forecast of 253,000. The city is also supposed to have another 53,900 jobs to employ all those newcomers. It means more intensification within existing boundaries and high-rise developments, as the city grows up rather than out.

The City’s master plans and official plan all tie into those growth and density targets, and also support the timing and cost of the development and the infrastructure needed to support growth.  It’s not going to happen all at once, but it’s not an abstract concept being delayed until later. Intensification is happening now.

Here’s a look at how Barrie is growing up under intensification in the downtown zone:

  • Revera Inc. is planning to build a 16-storey, 290-unit retirement building on the south-east corner of Owen and Collier streets. The site is now vacant, and until recently was occupied by retail outlets. The original plan called for a 14-storey, 193-suite residence, but a new site plan was filed last June and is currently under review.

“The retirement residence will provide active uses at-grade, robust streetscape enhancements, and inject significant new life into the downtown by introducing hundreds of new residents to the area who will support, and be supported by existing businesses,” according to the Planning and Urban Design update.

  • Close to Revera’s 16-storey retirement building is a development called the Residences at Five Points, so named because it’s to be situated at the five-points intersection in downtown Barrie. Plans call for 20-storey apartment building with 208 residential units and street-level retail.
  • Still in the downtown area is a development proposal to build two 32-storey towers with 495 units. The proposed development contemplates a pedestrian arcade that will connect the Dunlop Street frontage with the existing transportation terminal and waterfront. If built, they will be the tallest structures in Barrie.
  • Just west of that development is the HIP Barrie Central Inc. project, a mixed-use development of three residential towers (20 storeys – Building 1; 20 storeys – Building 2; and, 10 storeys – Building 3) with a total of 600 residential units. The proposed development also includes a YMCA community facility and urban parkette. It’s planned for the south-west corner of Toronto and Bradford streets, the former location of a high school and an elementary school.
  • Across from the Barrie Public Library, Barrie Owen Service Inc. has plans to build a six-storey mixed-use podium building with two residential towers above, an eight eight-storey tower at the corner of Owen and McDonald streets, and a 20-storey tower at the corner of Owen and Worsley streets. A sixth-floor amenity level is proposed to connect the two towers.

Residential developments, including apartment buildings, are planned for sites across the city, but intensification measures are most apparent in the downtown core, for now at least. It won’t be long before other areas of the city begin to see the impact of intensification, with the City having identified intensification corridors.

In 2009, the City completed an intensification study to identify key corridors that should accommodate higher density development, in reaction to places-to-grow mandates. Those corridors are Essa Road, Yonge Street, Bayfield Street, Dunlop Street West and Duckworth Street.

The study assessed Barrie’s capacity for meeting growth targets in the province’s growth plan, provided a vision and established priorities for achieving prescribed growth targets, while also recommending new Official Plan policies and performance standards for the zoning bylaw that would facilitate the type of development envisioned for the intensification areas.

Intensification has been in the works for some time in Barrie, but residents may only now be getting a glimpse of what it look like.

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