A massive $10-million construction project to improve a stretch of Dunlop Street in downtown Barrie received the official go-ahead at city council last night.
The phased project, which is expected to begin in September, includes underground work and larger sidewalks through the business area.
Mayor Jeff Lehman also noted the Downtown BIA, which represents businesses in the area, has endorsed the work.
"We're pleased that the BIA is supportive of the project and we are in alignment ready to go forward," Lehman said.
One of the key recommendations from staff included maintaining two-way vehicular traffic, but with reconfigurable parking areas that can be used for either pedestrian space or parking depending on time of year and demand.
Work is expected to begin on Sept. 10, with the first phase, on Dunlop Street East from Mulcaster Street to Owen Street, lasting nine weeks.
The second phase, Dunlop East from Owen to Bayfield Street, would follow beginning in February or March and continue for 10 weeks, depending on weather.
The second portion would also include the iconic Five Points intersection, with a modified boulevard on the north side and incorporating the current small “pork-chop” island.
The scope of the overall project, which received unanimous support April 8, and which will now be sent for tender, also includes work on Dunlop Street West, from the Five Points to Toronto Street, but funding allocation and a construction schedule have not been approved. Work on that section could also occur in 2020.
The project includes just over $5 million in approved funding, with almost $4.2 million in forecasted funding set for 2020 and 2021.
"If all continues to go well, this fall we could see the existing sidewalks expanded on Dunlop with the parking areas and the new streetscape to take shape," the mayor said.
The Downtown BIA will also contribute $300,000 to the project over six years.
The city has also been working with the BIA on the project schedule, which includes a shortening of the patio season.
An assessment completed in 2015 looked at ways to improve the pedestrian environment by studying alternative streetscape configurations with the goal of creating more pedestrian space through wider sidewalks.
The project will also include better lighting and visibility in the downtown.
Infrastructure work will be included, such as water servicing, sewers, utility upgrades (gas, telephone, cable, electricity, internet), and road improvements.