Theatre plan ready to play

Coun­cil will con­sider mo­tion Mon­day to de­clare parts of Bar­rie Cen­tral prop­erty sur­plus

The Barrie Examiner - - FRONT PAGE - BOB BRUTON

Plans for the former Bar­rie Cen­tral Col­le­giate’s fu­ture re­de­vel­op­ment are ready to bear fruit.

Coun­cil­lors will con­sider a mo­tion Mon­day to de­clare Red Storey Field and four Brad­ford Street prop­er­ties sur­plus to the city’s needs, clear­ing the way to swap this prop­erty to HIP De­vel­op­ment for W. A. Fisher Au­di­to­rium and a new YMCA of Sim­coe-Muskoka site at the old high school prop­erty along Dun­lop Street West.

Dur­ing the same meet­ing, coun­cil­lors will con­sider re­zon­ing the YMCA’s Grove Street prop­erty so it can be re­de­vel­oped as res­i­den­tial high-rises and town­houses, with the land sale pro­ceeds help­ing pay for the new Y.

“I would say first of all that it’s clear from the (staff ) re­port that the pieces are com­ing to­gether,” Mayor Jeff Lehman said of the down­town Bar­rie prop­er­ties. “There is some ur­gency as I be­lieve HIP is seek­ing clar­ity so they can move for­ward with de­vel­op­ment, and cer­tainly the YMCA is seek­ing clar­ity so they can get mov­ing on plan­ning a new fa­cil­ity.”

All of these de­ci­sions are con­tin­gent upon coun­cil ap­prov­ing the busi­ness case, op­er­a­tional and fund­ing model - due next month for the Fisher project, which is also to be an events or con­ven­tion cen­tre in the down­town.

With the Fisher project car­ry­ing a $19.3-mil­lion price, Coun. Mike McCann said the sur­plus land mo­tion might be pre­ma­ture.

“It’s putting a lot more lever­age and a lot more pres­sure, on coun­cil and staff to move for­ward when ... we haven’t de­cided what we’re do­ing in the fu­ture,” he said, re­fer­ring to Fisher.

The Ward 10 coun­cil­lor said he’s un­sure what sort of time lines HIP De­vel­op­ment, which owns the Bar­rie Cen­tral site, is work­ing with for the land swap – about 4.5 acres to HIP, about four acres to the city.

But the city should be ne­go­ti­at­ing ex­clu­sively with HIP for Red Storey Field and the four Brad­ford Street prop­er­ties, staff say.

McCann said this might be pre­ma­ture too.

“I’d hope that other op­por­tu­ni­ties would not be shied away (from) be­cause city staff and city coun­cil have al­ready made their minds up be­fore we get the busi­ness plan,” he said.

But Lehman said he thinks city staff are tak­ing the right ap­proach to this mat­ter by tak­ing it one step at a time.

“Mon­day’s mo­tion would be an­other ma­jor step for­ward, but there will be fur­ther de­ci­sions to be made be­fore the (Fisher) project pro­ceeds both with re­gards to the terms of a land swap and ar­range­ment with the YMCA, and ... the op­er­at­ing model for Fisher,” he said.

But the mayor also said time is press­ing, that coun­cil should make these de­ci­sions by year’s end.

“Given the Fisher project was only con­ceived of a few months ago, I think it’s ac­tu­ally mov­ing very quickly,” Lehman said.

“And I would note the pub­lic sup­port is over­whelm­ing, based on the emails, on­line re­ac­tion and the calls that have come to my of­fice.”

The Fisher Au­di­to­rium and Events Cen­tre would be a 650-seat-plus, multi-pur­pose cul­tural and events fa­cil­ity, with ca­pac­ity to host larger con­fer­ences and cor­po­rate events — for 1,100 peo­ple stand­ing and 450 seated - at the former high-school site.

The YMCA wants to build a new 50,000-square-foot fa­cil­ity that could be used for 5,000-6,000 mem­bers (its mem­ber­ship now is 3,000), and to ex­pand its ser­vices, near the cor­ner of High and Dun­lop streets.

But the Y would pre­fer a low-tono-cost land ar­range­ment for its new fa­cil­ity, so the city would lease this prop­erty to the YMCA and main­tain own­er­ship.

HIP has said the former Bar­rie Cen­tral and Prince of Wales school prop­er­ties, which it also owns, are to be a res­i­den­tial project called Mod­ern Bay­side Res­i­dences.

Last April, the Water­loo-based de­vel­oper bought this prop­erty for $5.8 mil­lion from the Sim­coe County Dis­trict School Board.

A new Fisher Au­di­to­rium would re­place Ge­or­gian Theatre, so ex­ist­ing fund­ing and staffing could move to the new fa­cil­ity; its op­er­at­ing costs are es­ti­mated at $50,000 an­nu­ally, roughly what the city spends on Ge­or­gian Theatre.

Bar­rie’s Mady Cen­tre for the Per­form­ing Arts (Five Points) theatre was de­signed as an ‘in­cu­ba­tor’, for use by com­mu­nity groups and for in­no­va­tive lo­cal groups like Talk is Free Theatre and Theatre By the Bay, to grow their au­di­ences.

Mon­day’s mo­tion to de­clare Red Fisher Field and 34, 36, 38 and 40 Brad­ford St. sur­plus to the city’s needs also in­cludes in­for­ma­tion on a Kidd’s Creek drainage solution for the former Bar­rie Cen­tral prop­erty, park­ing and road net­works.

The staff re­port coun­cil­lors will see in Novem­bers will not in­clude a busi­ness case, op­er­a­tional and fund­ing model, but an up­dated de­sign for Fisher, bud­get and an anal­y­sis of how it will com­pete in the theatre/con­ven­tion cen­tre mar­ket­place.

The en­tire site is about 12.5 acres in size.

MARK WANZEL/PHOTO

The way could be clear­ing to swap city prop­erty to HIP De­vel­op­ment for W. A. Fisher Au­di­to­rium and a new YMCA of Sim­coe-Muskoka site at the old Bar­rie Cen­tral Col­le­giate land along Dun­lop Street West.

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