Barrie – the gateway to cottage country open for business
Barrie may be best known as the “gateway to cottage country,” but, borrowing from a recent initiative of a certain provincial politician, the city might just as well hang a sign out front saying “open for business.”
Indeed, the days of this city of 153,356 being little more than a popular tourist and getaway destination are long over.
Barrie is a thriving city in its own right. It has long moved on from a bedroom community for Toronto, about 100 kms south, to developing its own increasingly diversified economy, with a focus on education, healthcare, information technology and other sectors.
For example, Barrie hosts industry experts, executives, investors and entrepreneurs from across Ontario at the annual Manufacturing Innovation Summit. Presented by the Business Development Bank of Canada, the event strives to help manufacturers maintain competitiveness and maximize productivity.
Further illustrating a focus on economic development, the City has partnered with Sandbox Centre to make regional resources for innovation and entrepreneurship more accessible to local businesses. Opened in April, 2019, Sandbox Centre is the first private sector-led innovation hub in Ontario.
It is exactly these types of initiatives that make Barrie so appealing for real estate. Economic development means employment, jobs attract residents, and residents translate to housing demand.
The city’s ability to attract younger residents is influenced by its growing reputation as a place for families and young, active professionals. Recent GO Transit expansion has made it easier for professionals to live in Barrie, where it’s more affordable, and work in Toronto or somewhere along the way.
Aggregate home prices for the first quarter of 2020 were up 3.5 per cent, year-over-year, to $519,161 from $501,731, according to Royal LePage. For condominiums, prices were relatively flat, growing 0.9 per cent to $398,574 from $394,912.
While at first glance this might not seem like great news, but milder price growth can represent buying opportunities for Barrie’s resident profile – many of them young, first-time homebuyers.
Live, work and play
It’s not strictly business in Barrie, however. Tourism still plays an important role in the local economy, with the historic downtown and waterfront major attractions. The downtown area hosts numerous annual festivals and events such as The Barrie Waterfront Festival, Barrielicious, Winterfest, Jazz & Blues Festival, Promenade Days, and Ribfest and Craft Beer Show.
Barrie is also home to Kempenfest, one of the largest outdoor arts and crafts celebrations in Ontario.
During the winter months, people still flock to the area’s nearby hills – Horseshoe Resort, Mount St. Louis Moonstone, and a little further afoot, Blue Mountain.
Then, of course, there’s the hometown Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League, who play out of the Barrie Molson Centre downtown.
Location, location, location
Located in Simcoe County in the northern part of the Greater Golden Horseshoe, about 100 kms north of Toronto, 36 km to Orillia; population 153,356.
• Centennial Park & Beach
• Georgian Theatre
• Heritage Park
• MacLaren Art Centre
• Sadlon Arena
• Waterfront Heritage Trail