A big vacant lot in the middle of Barrie – right off Essa Road – was once the Barrie Event Centre, but in recent years has been awaiting some kind of retail development.

But there's no sign that's going to happen soon. 

The company that owns the land says it is having difficulty landing potential retailors; more specifically an anchor tenant. But it says it's still interested in building in Barrie.

John Lockhart has been cutting hair at his barber shop on Essa Road for 28 years. Tonight, he says he's been told by the property owners that he has to move out.

“It's a bitter pill to swallow,” he says. “It's your roots and your roots get uprooted unfortunately.”

The barber shop will be gone by mid-January. Sticky Fingers just a few doors down will move out by the end of this month. It's moving to where Corson’s Sports Bar and Grill is in the south end.

All of the other business space in the strip mall is already vacant. The company that owns the land says a full teardown is an option.

It's owned by Osmington Inc. based out of Toronto. The company bought the old Barrie fair grounds in 2007. Osmington plans to build a 350,000-square-foot retail development on the site. But tonight the only things there are vehicles the fire department uses for training purposes. However, there was a tractor out in the field clearing debris.

An Osmington official today told CTV Barrie they are still hoping to build on the land but admits they have had difficulty in landing tenants. Osmington says it still plans to build on the site. When, however, is still unclear.

Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman says the land could be among the most valuable in the city, and says he would love to see something built soon.

“If that's not going to happen I think the city would welcome other proposals,” he says. “What we do want to see obviously is something that prominent to help build a stronger community. And we would like to see that happen sooner than later.”

Before anything can be built on the land, the city must first upgrade and widen most of the roads surrounding the property. That work is expected to begin in the spring.