Barrie – 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 141,434 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 recently hosted industry experts, executives, investors and entrepreneurs from across Ontario at the third 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, Sandbox Centre is the first private sector-led innovation hub in Ontario.
“The rapid pace of change in business and in technologies means that companies are best positioned to succeed when they can learn and share from each other,” says Karen Dubeau, director of creative economy with the City. “Sandbox Centre provides a centralized hub for established businesses, aspiring innovators, and independent entrepreneurs to share expertise, energy and opportunities.”
Director of creative economy? Such a title and position speak volumes about Barrie’s forward-thinking leadership.
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.
However, as a smaller centre, Barrie is sometimes subject to swings in the real estate market. Median home prices for the first quarter of 2019, at $505,795, were flat compared to the same period last year. Detached bungalows, however, grew 1.8 per cent, year-over-year.
While at first glance this might not seem like great news, but the slower price growth provides 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 141,434.
- Barrie Molson Centre
- Centennial Park & Beach
- Georgian Theatre
- Heritage Park
- MacLaren Art Centre
- Waterfront Heritage Trailb
Select housing developments
• Birchwood Estates of Essa by Alair Homes
• Birchwood Estates of Essa by Lilac Homes
• East Village Urban Towns by Cygnus Developments cygnusdevelopments.com