Barrie a city under pressure
Laurie Watt – Simcoe.com Oct 14, 2010
BARRIE – Do the math – then imagine.
Look up, way up, as Barrie becomes home to 70,000 more people by 2031.
Take half the city – and add it to the present population. Put 28,000 of them within the current built-up area – and the rest in the newly annexed 2,293 hectares.
Just what will it look like?
“What people should expect is … the city will develop at densities that are higher than we’ve seen in the past and in areas we’ve identified as areas of focus,” says Barrie’s planning director Jim Taylor.
That will come as good news to some and bad news to others.
Since the last round of annexation in the 1980s, Barrie grew mostly with single-family homes, Barrie’s Growth Management Strategy says. In 1981, the city’s population was 43,452. The 2006 Census pegged the city at 128,430 – and Taylor prefers to use 140,000 today.
Between 1981 and 2006, the city’s housing rate was three times the provincial average, and single-family homes made up three-quarters of the new stock.
The growth strategy forecasts Barrie will require an average of 1,290 new housing units each year, and economists Watson and Associates warns Barrie it must meet the needs of two distinct markets: young families with children and those 55 to 75.
From the outside looking in, Simcoe County’s planning director sees a similar scenario for Barrie.
“By 2031, 210,000 probably is doable given the additional land. Their planning study will certainly reinforce that. Perhaps it will be in a different form than what we’ve seen. There will be pockets of greater density we’ve not typically seen north of Toronto,” says Bryan MacKell.
Lisa Lounsbury, who lives near the Barrie South GO station, doesn’t like the idea of towers on Mapleview Drive – although the transit hub is exactly where Ontario envisions intensification.
“Most of us are from Toronto, and we left because we didn’t want to look at a skyscraper every time we turned around,” she said in a public meeting last month as she examined a proposal near the Barrie South GO train station – a transit hub, a prime location where Ontario envisions intense development to occur as part of its plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
Barrie’s Taylor, however, warns people should expect to see more proposals like that one coming forward.
“Urban design is a big part of it. For the larger projects, there’s value in looking at a variety of housing types. People should expect to see towers and low rises, a mixture (of housing types),” he said, adding the city’s 2008 Intensification Study recommended Barrie focus intense redevelopments not just in the city centre – which wraps around Kempenfelt Bay to include old Allandale and stretches along Bradford Street and Essa Road – but also in corridors: Yonge Street, Essa Road, Dunlop Street, Bayfield Street and Duckworth Street.
Key intersections – such as Big Bay Point Road and Yonge Street, Yonge and Little, Dunlop and Anne, Bayfield and Grove, and Duckworth and Grove – would be particular points for development.
Ontario’s Places to Grow also directs municipalities to think big near transit stations like the Barrie South station.
Fred Van Arragon is another south-end resident who doesn’t like the plan for Mapleview Drive East, which includes 1,044 high-density units in several eight to 24-storey towers, along with street townhouses and stacked and clustered townhouses.“I feel like I’m about to have an entire city behind my house,” said Van Arragon as he urged the city to stay low-density in that area because it not only fits with the neighbourhood, but high-density development would aggravate traffic issues and displace wildlife
Not far away, those residents will soon see another plan for a Yonge Street site, north of the GO station but south of St. Peter’s Catholic High School. Not yet at the public meeting stage, it consists of 336 apartments in eight three to five-storey buildings, plus 572 townhouses, in a variety of styles, including stacked townhouses, cluster and street homes.
Meanwhile, the Ontario Municipal Board dismissed an appeal for a five-storey apartment building just up the road at Yonge and Big Bay Point Road last month.
“You could even consider Tri J to be part of a node or corridor. It satisfies good planning,” said Taylor. “We’ve got a challenge on Tri J for an intensification area, and the (appellant’s) belief was about height. It was too high.”
Taylor said the city is facing OMB challenges on projects it’s approved and rejected. They all relate to density and a new land use – but they range from small 28 town homes to multiple high rises. Developers, too, are exploring the new planning laws at the OMB.
“Ironically, the ones we’re supporting are being challenged and the ones we’re not supporting are being challenged. Intensification will have to get some case law behind it, as to what it means in Barrie and elsewhere,” Taylor said.
Just because a project is intense doesn’t mean Barrie will give it the nod, he added.
Last month, the city rejected the Essa Woods plan, which is located on an intensification corridor, Essa Road. It proposed five towers, ranging from 14 to 25 storeys, along with townhouses and 143,000 square feet of retail.
The city rejected that idea on the grounds it was too intense for an intensification corridor, and the city did not want to create an intensification node there. Barrie was also concerned there was too much retail – which wouldn’t be viable and eventually converted to residential.
“They’d have to scale back to an intensification corridor – which is about 1/8th of the density. There is disregard for the environmental heritage,” said Ward 6 Coun. Michael Prowse.
“We’re sending them back to the drawing board and telling them to submit something that matches our OP and our intensification strategy.”
Density is critical, a math exercise with real-life consequences – not just in housing choice, but which affects traffic, services, schools, and skyline.
Ross Cotton, Innisfil’s planning director likes the some of what he saw planned for near the GO station. However, he’s not so keen on the highrises along Mapleview Drive.
“I’d like to have some justification why that density is necessary,” he told Barrie in a public meeting last month.
He played a key role in Innsifil’s Fair Growth campaign in May 2009, which criticized the city for consistently “under-using” lands it had previously annexed.
Today, he criticizes a proposal to make the most of a piece of that land which Barrie has identified as being in an intensification corridor, near a transit station – exactly where Ontario too would like to see more-intense developments.
Barrie’s Taylor acknowledges the city will have to be vigilant in monitoring ideas – to make sure they fit, so the city has a strong defence at the OMB.
“There are some strong policy directions we’ve been given by the province, and now those value judgments are being challenged. It’s the process that allows anyone … to appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board,” he said. “The case law will judge things on their merits.”
Residents will ultimately judge whether the city’s successful in its choices.
“I don’t think someone can say categorically we can nor we can’t (achieve the 210,000 population target for 2031).
“We feel the number is achievable from our intensification strategy and our Official Plan. We will all be working to implement intensification over the next number of years, to see where the successes are.”
To achieve the target population of 210,000, Barrie forecasts the following housing stock must be built: • 370 units this year • 500 units in both 2011 and 2012 • 600 units in 2013 • 725 in both 2014 and 2014 • 1,850 units/year, 2016 to 2020 • 1,700 units/year, 2021 to 2025 • 1,600 units/year, 2026 to 2030 source: City of Barrie Growth Management Strategy, by Watson and Associates Economists, July 2010, page 6-2
Population forecast by age
Barrie’s growth management study projects two demographic groups will drive the city’s growth: young families and those ages 55 to 75.
The 55-plus group is projected to provide half of the forecast growth over the next 25 years, as the baby boomers age and look to settle in cottage country.
The 20 to 54-year-old group is still forecast to grow by 26,400 people, and will bring their 11,900 children – making up the other half of the forecasted growth.
Young families with children are attracted to townhouses, especially as single and semi-detached homes become more unaffordable.
Empty nesters and seniors are opting for adult-lifestyle developments, the city’s growth study added.
Major proposed developments:
Barrie Heritage (between GO station and St. Peter’s): 908 units total, including 336 apartments (in eight three-to-five storey buildings, and 572 townhouses, in a variety of forms, including street, cluster and stacked townhouses
Blue Sails (Bradford Street): 590 units in a 24-storey and a 25-storey apartment building, street townhouses and walk-up apartments
Karita Towers: 11 residential storeys, located on the corner of Maple and Simcoe streets, as well as ground-floor commercial.
Tri J (corner of Big Bay Point Road and Yonge Street): 40 units in a five-storey condo/apartment building
Bradford Street at John Street (former Chrysler dealership): 301 units, in a 19-storey apartment building and three mid-rise buildings.
Manhattan Village (Ferndale Drive): 244 homes, in a mix of styles, including walk-up apartments and townhouses
Dock/Tynhead roads: The developer proposed 28 townhouses in an area where there are larger, lakeside lots. The city suggested 13 detached homes. Under appeal at the OMB
Dock Road: Under appeal at the OMB, neighbours didn’t like the idea of a four-storey building with 23 units.
Down the Road Pub, 650 Big Bay Point Road: 58 townhouses and commercial; under OMB appeal.
Existing high-density developments
Some of the largest include:
Nautica (35 and 37 Ellen St.): 302 units, in two towers
Gateway Cooperative, 90 Edgehill (at Anne St. N.) 218 units
Bayshore Landing (Dunlop, just east of Tiffin Street): 272 units
37 Johnson St.: 190 units
75 Ellen St: 175 units
65 Ellen St: 152 units
143 Edgehill Dr.: 161 units
2 Koslov St.: 160 units
2 Toronto St: 133 units
6 Toronto St: 46 units
108 Edgehill Dr.: 131 units
The Bay Club, 181 Collie St: 119 units
108 Collier St: 159 units