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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Barrie Downtown master plan approved

Downtown master plan approved



Endorsing a 15-year master plan to redevelop downtown Barrie takes the same kind of vision and long-term commitment previous city councils demonstrated in developing the city's waterfront.

That's what council veteran Steve Trotter told his colleagues Monday night, just before they approved in principle the plan created by commercial master planner Patty Xenos.

"It's great to have a plan and I'm glad we have a plan. Our biggest task before we even begin implementation is to listen to the words of Ms. Xenos about this being the inspiration," said Trotter.


Known for her work with Intrawest Resorts, Xenos and her team worked on not only Blue Mountain and Mt. Tremblant, but most recently Queenstown, New Zealand, and many other waterfront communities in between.

Xenos stressed the plan – a 161-page document that outlines phases, timing and business planning as well as land use and what new buildings should go where – is "a guide and an inspiration" for the community today and tomorrow.

She based the plan on a series of neighbourhoods, or districts.

For instance, Collier Street would be a professional/financial district, while Dunlop West would be entertainment, Dunlop East the main shopping district, and Mulcaster Street the artistic walk. These neighbourhoods, along with other specialty areas, would be tied together with new pedestrian walkways that link to destinations, such as a new history-inspired market square near City Hall and a marine building at the foot of Mulcaster Street and the heart of downtown, Memorial Square.

"These things have happened before and in all cases, they were a piece of land one believed in and other developers walked by and said we can't do anything," she said, as she showed slides of the old port of Montreal, now an area of prime real estate. "You can make it happen."

Barrie has an advantage in that people already believe the city can be more with its waterfront so close to downtown, she said.

She suggested improving sight lines to the lake, as well as creating a boardwalk along a canal that allows Kempenfelt Bay to lap at your feet. She suggested creating bridges to link downtown with Heritage Park, as well as developing the rear facades of Dunlop Street shops and a new specialty boutique area behind them.

She suggested possible sites for hotels, for a cultural centre area that would include a performing arts centre, as well as a waterfront restaurant on the Bayfield Street pier.

"It's a big job, but it's realizable," she said, advising the city to set up a development corporation to oversee and manage the multi-phase project.

"(Other) cities have done it."

As the city starts with phase one – creating a canal along Lakeshore Drive between the road and Heritage Park, getting approval to fill a site for a new bayside restaurant (at the end of the government dock), getting approval for the new, two-lane Simcoe Street – energy and interest will pick up in the development and general community. Phase two, in five year's time, would be the construction of an icon building, such as, but not necessarily, a performing arts centre.

"It's an incredible opportunity and it's an incredible responsibility to leave something significant behind," she said.

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