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Three city-owned properties eyed for housing plan in Barrie

'I’m not sure what this current economy will drive, but I think we do at least want to get it on the market and identify our intention for the sale,' councillor says of three properties
The former Barrie police headquarters on Sperling Drive.

Three public meetings will be held Feb. 27, the next steps in potentially turning city-owned land into hundreds of new residences.

Last November, the city announced three parcels of land were surplus to its needs, would be rezoned for residential use, sold and Mayor Alex Nuttall said would be developed as 1,200 to 1,400 new units.

The H-Block property on Worsley Street in downtown Barrie. | Bob Bruton/BarrieToday

The properties are 29 and 35 Sperling Dr., which is the former Barrie police headquarters, 50 Worsley St., known as the H-Block, and 48 Dean Ave., located right beside Barrie Public Library’s Painswick branch in the south end.

“I’m not sure what this current economy will drive, but I think we do at least want to get it on the market and identify our intention for the sale of it,” Coun. Ann-Marie Kungl said of the properties. “People are starting to get a sense about it.

“(Development) as soon as possible is great, but there are so many things we don’t control after the purchase," she added. 

The Sperling Drive property, land north of Highway 400 and east of St. Vincent Street, contains the former police building and surface parking on 3.5 acres of land. The city’s development concept is for two nine-storey buildings, with a combined footprint of almost 79,653 square feet. 

This idea is to maximize housing while incorporating non-residential uses that contribute to the local economy. The target proportion of non-residential uses is five to 10 per cent of the gross floor area and could include workshops, offices and small-scale retail. One level of underground parking would be provided for each building.

“This is … in a desirable area where the property can support high-density residential with some other uses,” said Kungl, whose Ward 3 includes this part of Barrie. “We are hoping it will attract someone that can develop it in a way that maximizes good use and highest density possible to support housing opportunities.”

The H-Block property on Worsley Street is 1.58 acres of land in Ward 2, adjacent to Barrie Public Library’s downtown branch, containing a surface parking lot and landscaped area. It would be rezoned to and from central area commercial second density, but with special provisions allowing residential use.

The city’s concept is for 628 units within two 33-storey residential towers, sharing a three-storey, mixed-use podium building. On the east side of the podium would be 12 two-storey townhomes that overlook John Edwin Coupe Park. Retail frontage would be on the ground floor along Clapperton and McDonald streets.

There would also be 395 parking spaces, provided in one level of underground parking and three levels of above-grade structured parking, screened with commercial and residential uses.

At the Dean Avenue property in Ward 9, there is already Barrie Public Library’s Painswick branch, surface parking and a landscaped area. The latter 1.66 acres, on this site’s eastern half, could be rezoned to apartment dwelling second density with special provisions from shopping centre commercial with social provisions.

The property at 48 Dean Ave., in the city's south end, is located beside the Barrie Public Library's Painswick branch. | Bob Bruton/BarrieToday

The city’s plan is for a 10-storey building of undetermined units, one level of underground parking and two levels of above-grade structured parking.

The library and parking area would not be affected by any future development.

Kungl said she’s not aware of staff hearing of any interest in these three properties, to date.

“I’m assuming we’ll probably hear more after the public meeting, when there’s more awareness about these properties,” she said. “I’m hoping it would incentivize someone.

“I think the zoning that we are looking at — ideally supporting commercial with residential, maybe we’ll bring in some unique partnerships we’re seeing in other developments,” Kungl added. 

The sale and development of these three properties could also be a cash cow for the city.

Nuttall said last November the potential sale values of these three properties is roughly $35 million, their estimated annual tax revenue to the city is $3.5 million and the development charges created through these property sales is $36 million.

Development charges are designed to recover the capital/infrastructure costs associated with residential, commercial, industrial and institutional growth within a municipality from developers, so that existing residents don’t have to foot the bill.

Nuttall has said this funding would help pay for city priorities and keep taxes affordable.

Bill 23, the province’s More Homes Built Faster Act of 2022, calls for 1.5 million new homes built in Ontario by 2031.

Barrie councillors endorsed a pledge in early 2023 with a target of 23,000 new homes built by 2031, in addition to what’s already planned.

The residential units that would be built from the rezoning and sale of the Sperling Drive, Worsley Street and Dean Avenue homes could help the city make that target.

The three public meetings on these rezoning applications will be part of the affordability committee meeting, to be held in the Council Chambers and virtually, beginning at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024.

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Bob Bruton

About the Author: Bob Bruton

Bob Bruton is a full-time BarrieToday reporter who covers politics and city hall.
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