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Old Barrie OPP property lined up for 'badly needed' social housing project (4 photos)

'Projects like this can’t come soon enough,' says Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman, noting city's skyrocketing rental rates in recent months

The former Barrie OPP detachment building will be demolished by year’s end to become social housing, with construction beginning in 2024.

Simcoe County councillors received an update of the plan Tuesday morning for 20 Rose St., which is located alongside Highway 400 in Barrie.

It includes two wings of 10 and eight storeys with 150 affordable and social housing units, Ontario Works offices, and children services, along with other social and community supportive uses.

Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman thanked county councillors and staff for pushing the project forward, noting the severity of the city’s affordable housing crisis.

“The most recent number for us is that the average rent in the city of Barrie briefly exceeded the average rent in the city of Toronto for a couple of months in the late summer and we’re currently the third highest in the country,” he said.

“So projects like this can’t come soon enough,” Lehman said, “and I wanted to offer my thanks to county staff for moving it along, and (for) seeking to re-purpose a provincial site, which is very well located for badly needed social housing in the city of Barrie.”

The 4.7-acre property is ideal for a number of reasons, including that it's in a central location in a built-up urban setting  with access to commercial amenities, schools, transit and pedestrian connections.

Its 150 units will be a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, and a combination of outdoor parking and an above-ground parking structure will be required to accommodate parking requirements for the site development. 

The building will also contain ground-floor and second-floor commercial space for a county Social and Community Services facility, including Ontario Works, Children Services and Housing offices. The ground-floor commercial space may contain other agencies, such as licensed child care or other compatible social service providers.

Demolition of the existing, aged structures will occur by year's end to eliminate any liability for the county related to maintenance costs of an empty building.

Based on the preliminary review of Barrie’s Official Plan and comprehensive zoning bylaw, the property is designated and zoned institutional. Land-use approvals may be required to permit a mixed-use residential building on the site.

County staff will need to initiate the pre-development planning approvals process in 2022. If approved by county council, this will enable full design to be completed in 2023 and to start construction in the spring of 2024.

Staff will report back in late 2022 or early 2023 with the schematic design and costing for this Simcoe County Housing Corporation (SCHC) affordable housing development in Barrie.

Since 2017, SCHC’s development and operational plan has been seeking land opportunities in Barrie to consolidate operations in parallel with the sale of scattered housing units. The property was purchased from Infrastructure Ontario by county council.

The OPP satellite office on Rose Street closed in November 2020 after the Barrie and Orillia OPP detachments were amalgamated. A new detachment has since opened on University Avenue in Orillia. The Rose Street detachment had been operational since the late 1950s.