An initial site analysis report of the Barrie market precinct has been approved in principle by city councillors and staff will report back in 2021 with a permanent market business plan.
This concerns transforming the Barrie Transit Terminal on Maple Avenue into a permanent market, and the evolution of the broader study area into a market precinct.
“This precinct — west of Five Points, over to the fire hall (Station No. 1) and south a little bit to the (Barrie) marina — that corner of our downtown has the potential to be the strongest part of our tourism economy and a major attraction to our community,” said Mayor Jeff Lehman.
“We now have the opportunity (precinct study) to look at these different pieces,” he added, mentioning the market, the Sea Cadets site, that corner of the waterfront at Simcoe Street and the lakeshore, and the former Fisher auditorium site.
Councillors have decided to demolish the former Fisher auditorium on Dunlop Street West, and put plans for a new theatre and conference centre on hold for 12 months, or when there’s COVID-19 recovery, which allows market conditions to improve to the point that its business case can be updated and assessed.
The market precinct is an area bounded to the north by properties along the north side of Dunlop Street, to the east of Bayfield Street, to the south of Simcoe Street and to the west by Bradford Street. It could be a hub for creative, cultural and community enterprises.
“We all know this is a part of the city that will see substantial private-sector development, but that won’t have an impact for some time,” Lehman said. “We also know it’s a part of the city where the waterfront meets the downtown and it could be a key piece of our tourist economy. I think we can look at the west end as a whole.
“There should be no other part of the city which frankly draws as many people to walk around and enjoy our incredible downtown businesses. It’s not quite there today, for sure," the mayor added.
This project has involved renovating the existing Barrie Transit Terminal at 24 Maple Ave., to a permanent market building, then constructing a new farmers’ market pavilion building.
The Barrie Farmers’ Market has operated since 1846, but without a permanent facility. It operates now at Barrie City Hall — outside in warm weather and inside in the Rotunda when it's colder — on Saturday mornings.
The public market is to be a gathering place to bring together farmers, chefs, entrepreneurs, and the community.
In 2018, council approved $2.9 million in design and construction funding, then an additional $3.9 million the next year for construction. Then that $6.8 million in funding was cancelled and removed from the capital budget plan, so there are no approved dollars — and no requested finds in the 2021 capital plan for the new development of a downtown market.
Any funding for this project would be considered at annual budget time, which is in January for the 2021 operating and capital budget; it sets property tax rates and service levels in Barrie.
A new innovation hub on the top floor, the Sandbox Centre, is already providing a single location for all entrepreneurs to meet, learn and mentor.