Orillia kicks off the 2021 Downtown Tomorrow program with grants for two exciting developments

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

The City of Orillia presented more than $66,000 in grants to two new projects in the City’s core through the first intake of the 2021 Downtown Tomorrow Community Improvement Plan (DTCIP) grant program.

“The Downtown Tomorrow grant program enables property owners and tenants to develop spaces in Orillia sooner than they otherwise would be able to,” said Coun. Ted Emond, Chair of the City of Orillia’s Economic Recovery Task Force (ERTF). “As we have seen many of our local businesses facing challenges stemming from COVID-19, it’s encouraging that two property owners are moving forward to bring their visions to life.”

The DTCIP program includes financial incentives designed to stimulate development in the City’s core. The first intake closed on Feb. 26, 2021. Grants awarded include façade improvements; building improvements for new commercial spaces, anticipated to facilitate upwards of 25 jobs; and grants to create four new two-bedroom residential units in downtown Orillia.

“One of the recently approved projects will bring a trendy new specialty food store to our downtown, which was identified as a need in the City’s Retail Mix Analysis, and the other will create apartments for approximately eight to 10 new residents,” said Laura Thompson, Senior Manager of Business Development. “Attracting new residents and jobs are core tenets of the Downtown Tomorrow program, as these additional community members will also support surrounding businesses on a year-round basis.”

Grants awarded through the first 2021 intake were for properties located at:

140 Mississaga St. E. – $16,250 (PICNIC Provisions & Snack Bar)

Up to $16,250 in grants for PICNIC Provisions & Snack Bar, which is converting a former clothing store into a new mixed-use retail grocer and tapas bar in Orillia. The grants will facilitate renovations for a kitchen and bar, an accessible bathroom, and locally made signage. The project will add approximately 25 jobs for local residents. The owners of PICNIC also own and operate The Common Stove. 

37 Mississaga St. W. – $49,750 (Sojonomi Properties)

Up to $49,750 in grants for Sojonomi Properties, which is revitalizing a historic mixed-use space, including bringing vacant commercial space on the ground floor up to fire code so it can be occupied again, and creating four two-bedroom residential units on the second storey. They are also improving the building façade by restoring the brickwork.

“Our goal is to recreate a charming old tapas bar and grocer that feels like its been here forever and we hope that it will be. We are thrilled the grant program has chosen to support the vision for our project,” said Darcy MacDonell, co-owner of PICNIC Provisions & Snack Bar.

“We are working closely with local trades on the renovation and will be bringing jobs to downtown as we hire to staff the business. Our aim is to fill gaps that the City has identified in both dining seat capacity and speciality food offerings. It will be a very different concept to our sister restaurant The Common Stove but I’m confident our team can pull it off.”

The next DTCIP intake, typically the busiest of the year, has an April 30 deadline. Potential applicants are encouraged to register for the DTCIP virtual community workshop on April 7, 2021. Potential applicants must attend the virtual community workshop if they have not previously taken part in a mandatory pre-consultation with the City of Orillia Business Development Division.