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Barrie's old fairgrounds at Essa Road set for revival

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Barrie city councillors took a few significant steps forward on Wednesday towards revitalizing an iconic property that has remained dormant for the better part of two decades.

On Wednesday general committee gave a round of approval towards sending down a Community Infrastructure and Housing Accelerator (CIHA) application to the province for a proposed development on the old Barrie Fairgrounds property along Essa Road.

"This is a very complex piece because you bring in the Ministry of Transportation beside the 400, the Essa Road improvements that have been taking place at the 400; there are two school boards that are looking for schools to be put on this site," Mayor Alex Nuttall said to CTV News.

"Obviously we need the Minister of Education to get involved because between those two school boards there will be about two thirds of the site that will be gone."

In addition to approving advancing the CIHA application, Ward 7 Councillor Jim Harris tabled a motion to direct staff to investigate ways for Barrie Transit to use an existing rail spur to connect the soon-to-be revitalized Allandale Transit Hub to the property.

"Should it be able to happen…being able to really, easily, efficiently, and effectively get from this site to that site would be really exciting, and it may create some new interesting potential opportunities for moving people around our city," Harris said during his comments to council.

The mayor thinks it could help more communities than just the proposed Fairgrounds development, saying multiple developments along the rail spur have been approved and are awaiting construction to begin.

"If we're going to take a serious look at how to deal with the traffic on Essa Road and how to deal with the new traffic over, let's say, Bradford Street, Innisfil Street, Tiffin Street, this is one other option that will hopefully have a positive impact on that, and I think will create some really good opportunities for these approved buildings to have a great business case to be built," the mayor said to council.

The proposal from Greenworld Construction Inc. would see just over 4,000 new units built on the site when the City faces a severe housing shortfall. Most of those units would be split across multiple high-rise towers, with just over 100 coming from newly constructed townhomes.

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