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Public feedback encouraged on 'exciting' waterfront plans

'I believe it’s time for change. If we create a neighbourhood down there, it’s better for everyone,' says councillor; You can provide input until April 18

The future of Orillia’s downtown-area waterfront is coming into focus.

Redevelopment plans from the two shortlisted companies are now available for public viewing and feedback.

FRAM Building Group and TPI Acquisitions (Tribal Partners) have presented plans that Mayor Steve Clarke said “match the character that we all know and love about Orillia and even enhance that character.”

Both proposals call for more than 150 residential units, as well as retail space and a public square at Mississaga Street and Centennial Drive.

Clarke isn’t stating his preferred option, but he said both are in line with the 12 “development principles” the city set out for the redevelopment. They include sustainability, a pedestrian-friendly environment and “simple and timeless design.”

“It’s really exciting,” he said.

Coun. Tim Lauer agreed.

“Both have certainly adhered to that request — that this be people centric,” he said. “We asked ourselves, ‘Are we creating a mall or a neighbourhood?’ We quickly decided that people should come first. The most important principle is to put people in that area.”

The FRAM Building Group proposal includes an eight-storey building with a mix of residential and retail space on Front Street. There currently aren’t any buildings that tall in the area. Council previously decided eight storeys would be acceptable there, but that will be “up for negotiation” as the process continues, Lauer said.

The redevelopment is part of the city’s Downtown Tomorrow plan. The city purchased the plaza at 70 Front St. N. in 2016. The plan is to tear it down, with the exception of the Metro grocery store, and extend Coldwater Street to the waterfront.

The iconic French’s Stand isn’t shown in the drawings, but Clarke said it will still have a presence. When Centennial Drive is realigned, French’s will be in the park rather than across the road from it.

Members of the public have until 11:55 p.m. April 18 to respond to a survey, which can be found here along with more details about the two proposals.

Lauer, who is chair of the waterfront working group, noted there has been plenty of consultation already and that’s what led to the development principles set out by council. He encourages people to provide their feedback on the proposals.

“We’re going to listen to the public and get more technical evaluations from staff before we move forward,” he said.

Like Clarke, Lauer is waiting on public feedback before picking his preferred option, but overall, he said, “I believe in the project.”

“I believe it’s time for change,” he said. “If we create a neighbourhood down there, it’s better for everyone.”

The city expects to choose between TPI Acquisitions and FRAM Building Group sometime this spring.

These are the 12 development principles the city asked the developers to adhere to:

  • Support the city’s Downtown Tomorrow plan and vision
  • Optimize financial return
  • Demonstrate a sustainable “green” approach
  • Enhance the resident and visitor experience
  • Respond to surrounding built form
  • Integrate within Orillia’s downtown and waterfront area
  • Consider downtown food and grocery needs
  • Consist of simple and timeless design
  • Consist of a high-quality public realm
  • Promote a safe, comfortable and inviting pedestrian environment
  • Integration of parking
  • Integration of servicing