After more than a year of COVID-19 waves that saw a rollercoaster of business shutdowns and re-openings, the recent low case numbers coupled with rising vaccine rates give us hope that we may close out 2021 with life reminiscing of pre-COVID days. Through all the ups and downs, Barrie’s construction industry has remained strong – so strong that we called Barrie’s 2020 construction ‘booming’ due to a year-end construction value of over $500 million in issued building permits. Over $260 million in building permits have been issued in the first six months of 2021 showing the possibility of another good year ahead.
We have witnessed record home sale prices, making the affordable housing issue even more front and centre. City Council directed the creation of three task forces in March including one focussed solely on affordable housing – a key strategic goal for Council since 2015. Although the number of units created since then is greater than was ever created in any similar period, and although $1.7 million in Affordable Housing Development Grants was awarded through the City’s CIP in 2020, much greater supply growth is needed to address the issue. The Affordable Housing Task Force is continuing to build on the City’s previous achievements as well as evaluate new opportunities to increase the affordability of housing as well as housing affordability.
The Market Precinct and the Performing Art Centre, two major development projects that have been in the future vision for revitalizing downtown’s west end for some time, are the focus of two additional Council directed Task Forces. The Market Precinct Task Force will report back at the end of 2021 with a business case for a new permanent market. Previously put on hold pending funding for the relocation of the Transit Terminal, funding has now been confirmed and the process of relocating the Transit Terminal is underway.
The Performing Art Centre Task Force will develop a complete project plan to construct a modern performing arts facility to replace the loss of both Georgian Theater and Fisher Auditorium. The plan will include assessment of the key needs for the centre which will, in turn, inform the design, establish a budget, and set overall fundraising targets.
Keeping pace with the city’s growth, several major infrastructure projects are visible throughout the city:
- Finishing touches are underway for the Dunlop Streetscape Project bringing new life to the downtown core.
- Recently opened Highway 400 crossing at Harvie Road and Big Bay Point Road will reduce existing traffic congestion and support the South end.
- Kidds Creek/Dunlop Street West Reconstruction Project to reduce potential flooding, expected to be completed in 2022.
New projects underway this year include:
- Anne Street bridge replacement over Highway 400, expected for completion in Fall 2022, including wider sidewalks and wider bridge deck that will improve traffic and active transportation.
- Fully urbanizing Mapleview Drive E from Madelaine Drive to Yonge Street from two to five lanes, a project expected to be complete in 2024.
- Bell Farm Road will be widened to 3 lanes, including bike lanes and sidewalks to be completed in 2022.
COVID-19 been an extremely difficult and challenging time for everyone, but the way our business community has worked together to support each other has been astounding. Some businesses will take longer to recover from the COVID-19 impacts than others, so I encourage everyone to continue to support local businesses throughout their recovery and beyond.