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Oro Station auto park racing toward 2023 opening (8 photos)

Developer behind automotive innovation park reflects on road from dream to reality; 'It seems that everybody is getting behind it'

This is the third and final part of a series on the Oro Station Automotive Innovation Park. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

When Geoff Campbell took a look at the property at 465 Line 7 N. in Oro-Medonte, he saw a field of dreams.

That was more than four years ago, and now he’s seeing those dreams become reality.

The managing partner with Oakleigh Developments is the driving force behind the Oro Station Automotive Innovation Park. It’s a multi-use development that will be a hub for research, which will include a focus on alternative fuel sources. There will also be a motorsport club and a 4.1-kilometre track that can be used for racing and testing.

Campbell got the process started in 2017 and was granted full zoning, thanks to a ministerial zoning order, in 2019 for site-specific uses.

Prior to that, the area was restricted to aviation-related uses only, as it is in the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport economic employment district. Having the airport, which is slated for growth, across the street was part of the appeal for the Oro Station project.

“That was what made this a great site. It’s been designated for economic employment since 2012, and that was because of the airport,” Campbell said. “That was one of the key things. It creates a good environment where we help the airport grow and they help us grow.”

The County of Simcoe’s LINX bus makes a stop at the airport, which will be convenient for those who will be working at the site and those who will be visiting.

“It’s very rare to see a facility like this that has public transit,” Campbell said, noting such facilities are typically located in unpopulated areas.

There isn’t much to see on the property right now, but Campbell is excited about construction.

A plan of subdivision was approved in January, which allows for the project to be completed in phases rather than all at once.

Campbell is working through the final stages of planning approvals before construction can start.

Seven buildings have been designed and are in the engineering process, and Campbell expects about 50 structures will be built on the site over the course of six to eight years.

The first foundations will likely go in this fall, with the goal of starting Phase 2 — construction of the buildings — next year.

Phase 1 includes “horizontal infrastructure,” Campbell explained, such as roads, sewer systems, wastewater treatment and electrical work.

“In a perfect world, the operations would commence in 2023,” he said.

He has started signing commitments with some of the individuals and companies who will have a presence at Oro Station.

“As the buildings start going up, we’ll see more businesses coming in,” he said.

Electric vehicles will be a significant component of Oro Station. Campbell said an electric vehicle research lab is being considered as part of the project. It could look at the capacity of existing infrastructure to meet the growing demand for those vehicles.

“You have to start answering these questions to create the future we’re talking about,” he said.

He is confident governments will continue to invest in that type of infrastructure, especially given the reaction to the Oro Station development.

“It seems that everybody is getting behind it,” he said, noting the project received unanimous support from both county and Oro-Medonte councils. “It’s very rare that you see multiple levels of government support something the way this has been.”

It helps that the project is expected to create 1,800 construction jobs and result in 700 full-time jobs in the region, according to an economic impact study.

That could be good news for local workers.

“There’s a really strong manufacturing labour skill set in this area, but a lot of them are commuting to Toronto,” Campbell said.

There continue to be issues with reliable internet in rural areas, and he sees the potential of the creation of Oro Station helping to address that.

“Because of this project coming in, one of the major utilities has run direct fibre optics to the property,” he said, adding he hopes that can eventually lead to faster internet coming to more areas.

Campbell said it’s vital that the Oro Station Automotive Innovation Park not stand out for the wrong reasons. That’s why he’s approaching the design with a mindset similar to the one he had while working on Matchedash Lofts in Orillia.

“It was really important for us to build something that fit with the look of downtown Orillia,” he said.

He has taken Oro-Medonte’s rural charm into consideration with his latest project.

“We’ve designed all of Oro Station to take on a barn vernacular. You’d almost think it’s one of the most beautiful horse farms you’ve ever seen,” he said.

Find out more about the Oro Station Automotive Innovation Park on its website.

Just the facts

Innovation park

Employment: 40 acres dedicated to automotive manufacturing with a focus on research and development

Autonomous: Vehicle testing in highway environment in all-season weather, with the ability to replicate highway speed and traffic on the motor circuit

Motorsport: Workshops for professional and customer race teams with access to the motor circuit allowing for immediate testing

Energy: Solar/hydro-generated power within the area provides attraction to electric vehicle design and development; opportunity for alternative fuel testing and development including hydrogen

Constructors courtyard

Manufacturers: Experience centre buildings for global manufacturers; experiential marketing opportunities

Commercial: Opportunities such as car museums, bespoke restoration and craftsman workshops

Smart technology infrastructure

  • Circuit has intelli-track infrastructure including electronic signal flags/lighting, IoT network 5G WiFi and fibre optic infrastructure, which will allow autonomous testing at highway speeds
  • Video analysis/vehicle tracking
  • Track limits detection technology (cameras, GPS and sensors)
  • Electric vehicle charging ports

Source: Oro Station Automotive Innovation Park