A handful of buildings at the corner of Bayfield and Sophia streets in downtown Barrie will be razed in the coming weeks.
The buildings, including some former homes which had been turned into offices and are now cordoned off with plywood, will come down to possibly make way for affordable housing, if the city approves the property owner’s application, which has yet to be submitted.
Demolition permits have been issued for 6, 8 and 12 Sophia St. E., as well as 113 and 115-117 Bayfield St., where the Bayfield-Sophia street sign indicates ‘Historic Downtown’.
Social-media posts about what’s happening on the corner questioned what will go there and whether the homes could be saved.
“The beauty of old homes downtown is important,” one person wrote on Reddit.
“Too bad they couldn’t make it work with those old homes, though,” wrote another. “That one on the corner with the round spire was especially unique. Who knows what condition it was in, though.”
Rob Watt, chief operating officer for DMS Property Management, said the proper permits are in place and the demolition will happen over the next few weeks.
“There are no (historic) designations on anything related to this project and what’s being demolished,” he said.
Mayor Jeff Lehman says it is typically up to owners of historic buildings whether they maintain them or choose to tear them down.
The city has a heritage registry, which none of these buildings are on, requiring a 60-day wait for demolition to allow for time for other possible solutions.
Whatever is built at the site also doesn’t have to incorporate any of the former architecture into its design.
“The city does not regulate architecture,” Lehman said, adding the city does have planning policies to “guide” development so it’s compatible with the existing neighbourhood.
“Basically, the city has supports for property owners who wish to do this, but it is their choice,” Lehman said.
How many units the housing project could include is still up in the air, pending a site-plan application.
The properties are owned by a not-for-profit board of directors and Watt said they hope to submit a site-plan application this year and, subject to approval, begin construction soon after.
The city recently reported significant gains in its affordable housing strategy, reaching the halfway point ahead of schedule. Barrie could soon be adding to its inventory.