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Knights Inn, Sticky Fingers will be demolished to fix nearby creek

Project means a decrease in downtown housing and a businessman looking for a new location
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Editor's note (Jan. 23): There is also another property, located at 17 Eccles St., required to complete the creek rehabilitation work. City officials say they are following an expropriation process agreed upon by the city and the property owners.

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Knights Inn and Sticky Fingers in downtown Barrie will soon be bulldozed, which means a hit to the city's affordable housing stock and a restaurateur looking for a new location. 

The buildings, including motel units and a restaurant at 150 Dunlop St. W., will be demolished to make way for a natural channel to open up Kidd's Creek, according to the city. 

Kelly Oakley, manager of planning and asset management, tells BarrieToday a significant portion of the work will happen where the Knights Inn now sits, across from W.A. Fisher Auditorium, which the city hopes to reopen. 

Oakley doesn't expect the city to take possession of the Knights Inn/Sticky Fingers property until mid-April and will then acquire the necessary approvals to raze the buildings. Demolition would not occur until May or June, "at the earliest," she said. 

That area of Dunlop Street has often flooded during significant rainstorms and the spring thaw "as a result of undersized channels and culverts," Oakley said. That led to the city's move to acquire the land for the creek rehabilitation project.

Sticky Fingers Bar & Grill owner Gary Parsons says it has been a stressful time and he hopes patrons will come out to the establishment through January and February.

"Right now, we're still talking to the city, so we're co-operating with them," Parsons told BarrieToday. "We're working with the city to allow possession to meet their construction timelines."

Sticky Fingers, which is well known for its wings and ribs as well as live music, opened in 2003 at a location on Essa Road and operated there until 2014. That building was demolished and the operation moved to Dunlop Street. (There was also a franchise operation on Bryne Drive for a short time.)

"We've moved from Essa Road already, so this is the second time this is happening to us," Parsons said Friday.

Parsons said he's still looking for a new location and hopes to find one soon. 

"The last time we closed Essa Road, it took a long time to find something that would work, because of what we do with the live bands," he said. "So when this became available on Dunlop, you know, it was the one, right? So here we are."

Meanwhile, people who are need of housing have often been sent to the Knights Inn by local organizations in an effort to combat homelessness. 

Calls to the Knights Inn went unanswered and no one could be reached for comment at its partner company.

Capt. Stephanie Watkinson, with the Salvation Army Barrie Bayside Mission Centre, which operates a family shelter hotel program for people who need housing, said there's a plan in place to help those who live at the Knights Inn, where the organization rents eight units. 

"I'm in the process of trying to secure other housing units," Watkinson said Friday. "We are currently trying to find other locations to accommodate us while we're in transition and until our transitional housing building is built on Lillian Crescent."

In a partnership between the Salvation Army and Redwood Park Communities, the new facility with 12 units would allow families in crisis stay together while they get their lives back in order. The projected cost to build the facility is around $2.3 million. 

Watkinson said they're looking to fill a gap of approximately 18 and 24 months between the Knights Inn demolition and the opening of the north-end facility, to be located at 151 Lillian Cres. 

In the meantime, "we will be doing everything to continue our family shelter program at another location," she said. "So while the timeframe is tight for us to find another location, we are confident that we will find the locations we need (for people being displaced at the Knights Inn). The program will keep going, because there's a high need."

Sara Peddle, executive director at the David Busby Centre, a non-profit organization which helps the city's homeless and people at risk of being homeless, said the centre has directed people to the Knights Inn in the past. 

"We have, in the past, used the Knights Inn for overflow and people who were needing accommodation," Peddle told BarrieToday. "From our enumeration and homelessness count that we did in April, we do know there are people who were residing in those motel rooms as housing.

"Of course, there's concern if the building is being demoed," she added. "From that perspective, we just hope there will be a plan in place to make sure that everyone who's in there is supported, and obviously we'd want to be part of that." 

Peddle said it's disconcerting to lose space being used as housing, but added Busby's outreach services will continue to be provided to people who live at the inn.

"Anytime that we lose any type of capacity within the continuum of housing ... obviously there's always concern for that," she said, adding it also stresses the need for more affordable housing. 

"We need to make sure we're building affordable housing in our community so we can not have more of an issue than the homelessness crisis that we're already facing already," said Peddle. "People need to be supported in that transition."

CREEK PLANS

As for the Dunlop Street West property itself, the city says it's working on a plan with the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) to reduce potential flooding by "up-sizing" culverts and where possible, eliminating culverts altogether by creating natural channels, referred to as "daylighting," so they can better handle major storms, including 100-year flows.

Kidd’s Creek flows from headwaters near Cundles Road, through Sunnidale Park, and downtown Barrie to its outlet at Kempenfelt Bay on Lake Simcoe, Oakley said. 

The Kidd’s Creek master drainage plan (2001) outlined various scenarios for reducing flooding along the creek. The city is completing a Barrie-wide master drainage plan update.

"The current draft confirms the recommendation to open the channel in this location," said Oakley, adding the existing drainage system downstream of Bradford Street has been upgraded to handle a 100-year flow to Lake Simcoe.

"The section of Kidd’s Creek, from Bradford Street to Eccles Street North, is the next section to be addressed," added Oakley, noting the city is in the process of finalizing the design for the culvert under Dunlop Street and channel 'daylighting' both upstream and downstream of Dunlop Street. 

Work is scheduled to begin this spring.




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Raymond Bowe

About the Author: Raymond Bowe

Raymond is an award-winning journalist who has been reporting from Simcoe County since 2000
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