Pier Village has much to offer Barrie

"Pier Village"

Pier Village, proposed development for southeast corner of Mulcaster and Dunlop streets

by John Devine

When handed a hot potato, what do you do with it? Well, you either serve it up right there on the spot, or set it aside to let it cool down, dealing with it later when conditions may render it easier to handle.
By shuffling the Pier Village proposal off to city staff for three weeks to get some answers to a unique possible solution first raised by Ward 2 Coun. Lynn Strachan, who represents the downtown, city council has figuratively tossed this particular tuber into the root cellar of consideration.
Ok, enough with the spud analogy.
City council has a decision in front of it that should be easy to make. The proposal to build a condo/retail development on the southeast corner of Mulcaster and Dunlop streets meets municipal and provincial growth initiatives and directives. The City has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on reports that recommend pursuing this type of development. If you want downtown redevelopment, this is it.
But issues such as this one, especially when they move into the political realm, are rarely that simple. What you usually get are delays to see if a solution, or compromise, that satisfies everyone can be found. Let’s hope middle ground is there, but councillors need to be prepared for the reality they might not find it.
The project, proposed for 147-155 Dunlop Street East, calls for the construction of an 11-story building with 98 residential units, and 1,730 metres of retail space. As proposed, it would also have 148 underground parking spaces, and access from Dunlop.
It requires a number of zoning changes, including an increase from the current height control of 30 metres to 36 metres. And the developer, local businessman John Trecapelli, who owns the property, also wants to purchase 22.8 metres of adjacent municipally owned parkland, which had originally thought to be deemed surplus, but is now known to be zoned C1-1, commercial use, the same designation as the adjacent property.
Most parkland in Barrie is zoned open space. Ward 4 Coun. Barry Ward referred to the change as a zoning error. Regardless of how the property arrived at its current zoning, the question facing council remains the same, if middle ground can’t be found: to support a project that meets identified and agreed-upon growth guidelines and directives, or not.
The question of selling the parkland seems to be more contentious than the request for more height, and that led to Strachan wondering if a parking garage could be built under the parkland, a notion that led to a three-week delay to allow staff to investigate if the property could have two owners: the developer beneath the surface, and the City above, for the purpose of keeping it open space. However, this proposal would reduce the project’s density. Would council consider an even greater height allowance to keep the same density in a reduced footprint?
Opposition is coming mainly from two fronts: residents of Bayshore Landing across the street have expressed concern about the development’s impact, in its current form, on property values and views of Kempenfelt Bay. Others, including former mayor Janice Laking and former councillor Sam Cancilla, oppose the sale of parkland.
At a public meeting to unveil the project, its planner explained how it meets development targets, which include a provincial directive to intensive urban areas, growing municipalities ‘up’ instead of ‘out’ to avoid urban sprawl. In its Places to Grow document, the province identifies Barrie as a growth centre, setting population targets over the coming years.
Those in attendance at the public meeting also heard the project fits with the city’s 2006 Downtown Commercial Master Plan, which calls for the location to be developed as an “icon building,” according to the presentation shown by the developer.
It’s all shaping up to be a lively discussion. Let’s hope a compromise can be found, but if not council needs to seriously consider the merits of this project, even if it means some pain with the gain.

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