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Old Barrie police headquarters, H-Block properties rezoned

City's mayor says more municipally owned land could also be rezoned for residential use, but without undermining value
2020-07-28 Old police HQ
The former Barrie police headquarters, located on Sperling Drive in north-end Barrie, has been rezoned to make way for development. | Raymond Bowe/BarrieToday files

Three city properties are rezoned and ready for residential development.

Barrie council gave final approval Wednesday night to rezone parcels of city-owned land that could one day hold hundreds of new residences.

The properties — 29 and 35 Sperling Dr., 50 Worsley St., and 48 Dean Ave. — can now go on the market and be sold to developers that could turn them into an estimated 1,375 new units.

“Is there interest in the city of Barrie in building highrises? Yes, there is,” said Mayor Alex Nuttall. “I would say that it’s pretty robust, based on the conversations that I’ve had. People recognize this (Barrie) is a place that’s growing, naturally growing, and is a place with services.”

The 29 and 35 Sperling Dr. property, which is land north of Highway 400 and east of St. Vincent Street, contains the former police building and surface parking on 3.5 acres.

The city’s development concept for this land is for two nine-storey buildings on the two irregular shaped lots. The target proportion of non-residential uses is five to 10 per cent of the gross floor area, and may include workshops, offices and small-scale retail. One level of underground parking would be provided for each building.

Development services staff will further examine any additional standards worth exploring, beyond permissions of the Official Plan (OP), including a special policy area to permit increases in height and density on the site and report back to Barrie councillors in June 2024. 

At 48 Dean, located in Ward 9, there is already Barrie Public Library’s Painswick branch, surface parking and a landscaped area. The latter 1.66 acres, on the site’s eastern half, has been rezoned for a 10-storey building with 201 units and 257 parking spaces. It could have one level of underground parking and two levels of above-grade structured parking. The library and parking area would not be affected by any future development.

There would also be a privately owned public space on the Dean Avenue property, with residents' input, such as a community garden or a sitting area for seniors. 

The H-Block property, at 50 Worsley, is 1.58 acres of land adjacent to Barrie Public Library’s downtown branch. The city’s concept would have two 33-storey towers, a three-storey podium and 628 units. On the east side of the three-storey podium there would be 12 two-storey townhome-style units overlooking John Edwin Coupe Park. Retail would be on the ground floor along Clapperton and McDonald streets; 395 parking spaces would be provided in one level of underground parking and three levels of above-grade structured parking, screened with commercial and residential uses.

Nuttall also said there could be other city properties rezoned for residential use and put on the market.

“But we need to make sure we don’t put so many properties out there that we undermine the value of our own properties,” he said. “So I think that over time we will see some of these happen.”

The sale and development of these three properties could also be a cash cow for the city, Nuttall has said. 

The potential sale values of these three properties is roughly $35 million, he said, with their estimated annual tax revenue to the city is $3.5 million and the development charges (DCs) created through these property sales is $36 million. DCs are designed to recover the capital/infrastructure costs associated with residential, commercial, industrial and institutional growth within a municipality from developers, so that existing residents don’t have to foot the bill.

Nuttall has also said this funding would help pay for city priorities and keep property taxes affordable.

Now that council has rezoned these three properties, those changes will need to be put in a bylaw before they go on the market for sale and redevelopment.

On March 14, the city received $25.7 million in federal housing accelerator funding to both fast-track more than 680 housing units in the next three years and help spur construction of 4,100 homes during the next decade.

Barrie’s plan commits to nine local programs, such as permitting four units as-of-right citywide, helping stalled developments that already have planning approvals get building permits by offering incentives, expanding the city’s affordable housing community improvement plan to include forgivable loans for secondary suites and making city-owned land available for affordable housing. This includes properties such as 29 and 35 Sperling Dr., 50 Worsley St., and 48 Dean Ave.

Bill 23, the province’s More Homes Built Faster Act of 2022, calls for 1.5 million new homes built in Ontario by 2031.

City council endorsed a pledge in early 2023 with a target of 23,000 new homes built by 2031, in addition to what’s already planned.

The residences that would be built from the rezoning and sale of the Sperling Drive, Worsley Street and Dean Avenue homes could help the city make that target.