It may have been the most unusual and disruptive year any of us can remember, but despite the challenges of the pandemic, 2021 is turning into a banner year for construction in Barrie. Building permit data for August 2021 reported the construction value of permits issued by the City year-to-date topped $350M, breaking the previous record set in 2017, and 2021 was the fastest year on record to reach $300M in construction value of permit issued. With the value of permits applied for at nearly $500M already as of August, 2021 looks likely to be the strongest year in history for construction investment in Barrie.
Permits of course tell only part of the story. More of the story can be seen driving around the community, as major projects have mobilized. With tower cranes now appearing in the four corners of Barrie, from Little Lake in the northeast, to Ashford/Yonge in the southeast, to Hamner/Bayfield in the northwest, high-rise construction is no longer just happening near Barrie’s waterfront. Development economics have fundamentally changed, giving us the opportunity to finally build more of the purpose-built rental buildings we need to help stabilize the runaway cost of rent in Barrie. We can finally look at redeveloping some of the long-vacant sites in our downtown core and along arterial roads, that are ideally suited for this kind of opportunities.
However, what we see today is just the thin end of the wedge. The largest projects in the City’s history are just beginning, in the west end of Downtown Barrie. The Debut Condos (on the theatre block) and the Greenwin/SmartCentres development on Bradford Street will bring iconic new buildings to our skyline, and with the LakHouse on Dunlop East and the HIP development on the former Prince of Wales School site, represent an astonishing $2Bn investment into Barrie’s downtown. The hotel featured in the SmartCentre development, the large commercial podiums in the Debut and SmartCentres projects, and the ongoing investment by the City of Barrie through the West End Revitalizations Task Force in projects such as the downtown market, will all bring new economic drivers to the heart of our city.
One of the most powerful impacts of this construction boom is in employment. More than 1,000 new full-time jobs in construction have been created by companies and trades in the City of Barrie itself, and of course, large projects that provide employment for out of town trades and workers as well. It all adds up to a powerful economic driver for our City – and the reason Barrie continues to prosper despite the challenges of COVID.
Mayor Jeff Lehman