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Orillia seeking public feedback on plan to reshape city's core

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Orillia city councillors have their eyes set on the future but want to hear from residents before the plan is set in stone.

On Monday, councillors heard a presentation from Urban Strategies, the consultants tasked with reinvigorating Orillia's Downtown Tomorrow plan. First started in 2012, this new version brings new ideas for the economic challenges of 2024.

"We're quite excited about that," Mayor Don McIsaac told CTV News. "This has been a long time in the works, as you may know. We started in the downtown Core Plan 2012, and we've updated it to identify new actions."

The updated plan includes seven primary goals to refresh the downtown core:

  • Increase the residential population
  • Reinforce downtown as a civic and institutional hub
  • Acknowledge Orillia's Indigenous history
  • Enhance shopping & dining options
  • Improve connections to downtown while addressing safety concerns
  • Create and enhance outdoor amenity space
  • Promote Orillia as a year-round destination

The presentation emphasized the population downtown as a major priority, with various build-forms recommended in the updated report. The City will consider looking at existing properties for redevelopment opportunities as one option.

The report was heavily focused on introducing the right type of density in new residential buildings, a concern for many councillors who don't want high-rise towers in the wrong places. According to the report, Queen Street is an area where buildings of up to 16 stories are recommended.

"So I do see it fitting, but my preference would be to maybe see rather than six up to six stories, maybe 8 to 10 stories in that ballpark," Councillor Jay Fallis said during Monday's meeting.

McIsaac also has concerns about multiple high-rise towers jeopardizing what he considers great views of the waterfront.

"I think in the absolute downtown core, I don't think anything over three or four stories is nice," said McIsaac. "I think as you get a little outside the core, you could maybe go to, you know, six or eight stories, that sort of thing."

According to the City, the plan, first implemented in 2012, has seen many successes, including the Waterfront Redevelopment Project.

Of the seven primary goals outlined above that formulate the plan, there are 31 strategic initiatives that the consultants broke down into four main themes:

  1. Facilitating mixed-income housing developments
  2. Encouraging more people to visit downtown
  3. Positioning Orillia as a four-season destination
  4. Recalling & celebrating Indigenous culture and history

To get more visitors to the City's core, some of the ideas included in the plan are expanding transit options throughout the evening and weekend, creating a dedicated downtown loop and having shuttle buses for special events.

The plan also calls for more outdoor amenity spaces to lure people downtown through things like a recreation hub or a destination dog park.

The City is now seeking feedback directly from the public. After this is gathered a final version of the Downtown Tomorrow plan will be presented to council this Fall.

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