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Mayor says development could begin at old fairgrounds in 2022 (4 photos)

'The landowner has come back with a very ambitious plan and ambitious in the best way,' Lehman says of Osmington project

What’s new with Barrie’s old fairgrounds along Essa Road? Not much in terms of anything actually happening development-wise on those 29 acres beside Highway 400.

Plans are afoot, but it’s unclear exactly what's being proposed and when by developer and landowner Osmington at the former Barrie Fair site.

Mayor Jeff Lehman, speaking at the Mayor’s Business Progress Breakfast on Wednesday, was asked what’s happening there. 

“I would describe it as highrise office buildings, as well as a mixture of residential uses, with declining density back toward the existing residential in the neighbourhood,” he said. “I believe that’s moving forward in 2022.”

Osmington has applied to the city for an Official Plan amendment, a rezoning and plan of subdivision needed to develop a mixed-use residential and commercial project at 175 and 199 Essa Rd. Those applications are under review by city staff. 

Also, Osmington has applied for changes to the Official Plan and zoning bylaw to alter land use, from highway industrial to residential and open space at 50 Wood St., to facilitate residential development, stormwater management and the daylighting of Hotchkiss Creek in co-ordination with 175 and 199 Essa Rd. These applications are also under review by city staff.

Lehman said the former Barrie Raceway property is important for a number of reasons.

“The raceway site is not just a gateway to the city, it’s at an interchange (at Essa Road and Highway 400) so it’s a tremendous location for companies that want highway exposure,” he said. “Because it’s between Highway 400 and the (Allandale Waterfront) GO station, it’s also a tremendous site for residential.

“Sites like the raceway can create a whole range of built forms,” Lehman added. “We can get some of those apartments, those purpose-built apartments we so badly need, as well as, on that site in particular, employment uses at a key gateway to the city.”

During August 2020 public meetings, Osmington, through SGL Planning and Design, laid out plans to develop a mixed-use project that included the potential for a variety of residential and commercial uses  including townhouses, apartments, long-term care facilities, ground-floor commercial uses, and an office tower at the old fairgrounds.

SGL also showed plans for 50 Wood St., to change its Official Plan designation to residential from Highway 400 industrial, and zoning to medium-density residential and open space.

The proposed development would extend Wood Street into 50 Wood St., with a row of townhouses, and south through 175 and 199 Essa Rd. Nearly 27 acres, 50 Wood St. is located north of Essa Road, east of Highway 400 and adjacent to the Barrie Collingwood Railway.

Where these development plans stand is unknown.

Information on the city’s website, under proposed developments for Ward 8, has 2021 reports on concept renderings of the proposed development, as well as reports on engineering, geotechnical, landscaping, noise, and transportation.

“The landowner has come back with a very ambitious plan and ambitious in the best way,” Lehman said. “I was pleased to see them (Osmington) be ambitious about that site, because you know I think because Barrie grew so fast from the small, central Ontario town that we were in the '70s and '80s, into a fast-growing, very dynamic, medium-sized city today.

“Because we’re going to grow so much more, we should now be ambitious with some of these sites… key sites," he added. "And the raceway site is certainly one of them.”

Osmington, a Toronto company, did not return calls and e-mails from BarrieToday to update or clarify the information above.