A modern 20-storey condo tower will be an iconic building that revitalizes Barrie's downtown core

A modern 20-storey condo tower will be an iconic building that revitalizes Barrie's downtown core, say supporters of the proposed development.

"New York has its Times Square, and Barrie will have its Five Points," long-time resident Gayle Fortin, said at a public meeting Monday night. "It has the potential to be an iconic building."

Developer Advance Tech Developments has applied for the required zoning bylaw amendment to allow construction of a 203-unit condo, mixed-use project with ground-floor commercial areas and a three-level above-ground parking garage. The plan also includes nine affordable housing units.

If approved, the structure will be built on the vacant lot at Five Points. The site has been empty since the Wellington Hotel was destroyed by fire in 2008.

"Downtown Barrie is going to be a different place by the year 2031," said Darren Vella of Innovative Planning Solutions, as he presented the plan to city councillors and the public.

"It's going to have to be more intense development ... and you are going to have to look at bringing larger buildings and turning the downtown into a different place than it is now.The Advance Tech project will spur on the necessary changes, he said.

Architect David Butterworth has worked on major large-scale developments in the United Kingdom, United States and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

He says the Five Points condo project has the potential to rejuvinate the downtown core and his goal is to create a building "for a modern era that you are starting to live in and that people over the years will recognize as a landmark."

The unique design uses glass panels with lighting on the bottom floor and top floors and colourful balconies that "create a mosaic approach."

A public open space feature includes a digital screen at the corner that can be used for advertising space "to let people know what's going on in Barrie," Butterworth said.

The unique use of art may encourage other businesses to use architectural elements not currently found in the city.

"This is an architectural language that is going to change the face of Barrie as we move forward.

Valerie Banfalvi moved to Barrie eight years ago from Toronto and she is excited to hear about the new development.

"That Five Points is a little embarrassing," she said. "I find it amazing that we have a downtown where businesses can't thrive. This will bring more people and life and foot traffic to the downtown”.

Opponents argue that the tall building will set a new precedence for high-rises and create a tunnel in the downtown.

Cathy Colebatch says she likes the look, but the tower is too high and should be restricted to 10 storeys.

Darren Vella of Innovative Planning Solutions, speaking for Advance Tech, said this is an important corner.

Barrie's current bylaw allows buildings as high as 30 metres; Advance Tech is asking for 61.55 metres.

Vella pointed out the provincial growth plan says Barrie should grow to 210,000 (from about 145,000 now) by 2031, and the city core must grow right along with it.

Barrie is a designated growth centre and expects to grow by 10,000 residents over the next 15 years. That means 5,700 new residential units.

In 2013, city council approved the tall buildings Official Plan policy which did not increase building height in the City Centre, but rather recommended that proposals for increased building height are to be reviewed on their individual merits.

Staff will present a report to council for review and possible approval on April 4.

The developer says construction could start immediately after approval is granted.

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