Downtown – the Year in Review

Further to my last post – Christmas/New Year’s is a good time for a gut check – to look back and see what worked and what didn’t, and what needs to change for the new year.

Our recent citizen satisfaction survey noted that Downtown Barrie is one of the top issues facing our city.  Looking at our Downtown, 2011 was a very good year.  The Mady Theatre opened, and construction began on the first new commercial and residential development in the west end of downtown in more than thirty years – the Nautica development at 15 Maple Street. 

But the most positive thing that happened was the number of storefronts that filled in Downtown during 2011.  Here’s a list of the new businesses that came to Downtown in 2011 – thanks to Craig Stevens of the Downtown BIA for this list.

Beavertails

Bark & Meows

Deelish Waffles & Desserts

TLC Bistro

Absolutely Fabulous Fashion Finds

Rawlicious

Femme Fatale Spa Lounge

Bliss Studio

Donaleigh’s Pub

Spice

Red Tulip (returned to downtown)

Mitty’s Sports Bar & Grill

The Clarkson Pub

Wild Wing

The Edge Gallery

The Brentwood Salon (relocated and expanded)

Simply Tea & Chocolate

The Maple Avenue Towers

Mady Lakeview Sales Office

Mady Centre for the Performing Arts

The West Sales Office

Back To Basics Social Developments – Unity Market; opened on Toronto St.

Gown Gallery – new on 54 Dunlop Street West

 

In addition, many other businesses expanded or grew in new locations downtown.  Looking ahead, while January will no doubt bring some additional vacancies (many companies are on a calender year lease, and if they are planning to close, January is usually the month), the strength of downtown will be in both its commercial and growing residential population.  As several developments move forward in 2012, Council will be focussed on ensuring public areas continue to become safer, more attractive places to be.  The Downtown BIA has done excellent work in 2011 in implementing the first steps in Roger Brooks’ recommendations for making downtown more of a people place, including temporary patios and new beautification initiatives.    The trick will be to keep the momentum going in 2012, despite an uncertain economy.  But a stronger Downtown means a stronger community as a whole.

2012 – The Year Ahead

Overdue to post a copy of my new year’s message.  We had a very successful New year’s levee on Jan 1st, raising about $5,000 for the United Way, and hosting more than 150 people at City Hall, first for brunch, then for the free levee in the afternoon.

The best to everyone in 2012, more posts to come soon.

 

 MAYOR JEFF LEHMANS NEW YEARS MESSAGE

BARRIE, ON – The closing days of the year always bring the opportunity for retrospection, and for looking ahead to a New Year.

The year 2011 was a most unusual one, at home and abroad. In the spring, we watched democratic revolutions spread through the Middle East, and unprecedented economic turmoil in Europe. At home, Federal and Provincial elections returned governments to power with new mandates, amid fiscal challenges and economic uncertainty. We said goodbye to Jack Layton, only months after his historic success, and Attawapiskat reminded Canadians that we have much work still to do at home to ensure basic standards of life in remote communities.

In Barrie, we celebrated many milestones. Council opened up City Hall by creating a wide range of new opportunities for civic engagement, allowing our residents to be part of the decisions that affect their community, from Town Hall meetings in each ward and on the internet, to open delegations at Council meetings. Downtown, for the first time in years, construction cranes appeared, and storefronts filled in. Crime has plummeted: the number of crimes in Barrie dropped by 14% compared to 2010. We welcomed major new employers, such as the TD Operations Centre, R&M Plastics, and PPG. Many of our largest local employers announced expansions, including Napoleon, JebCO, and Munro Concrete.

Yet despite twice as many jobs created in 2011 compared to 2010, job growth in Barrie didn’t keep pace with growth in the workforce; and as the global economy continues to stumble toward recovery, employment and economic development will need to be the top priority of all three levels of government for Barrie in 2012.

The other major challenge for all government is and must continue to be living within their means. In 2011, City Council reduced forecast debt by $21M. More significantly, in 2011 we again cut spending dramatically, spending about $34M less in 2011 than in 2010. This is the second consecutive year that the City of Barrie has reduced total spending and reflects the need for us to live within our means amid economic uncertainty.

This will be one of the biggest challenges for 2012. We are leaving an era of stimulus spending and major projects for Barrie; these projects have moved us forward as a community and provide valuable services to residents across Barrie. But the next few years will need to be about smaller projects, finding new partnerships, and finding ways to deliver services differently.

To accomplish these changes, we will need new ideas. One of the most pleasant surprises in this job in 2011 was the number of residents, business leaders, and city staff who came forward with new ideas to move our community forward. I would point to our first ever Team Barrie Trade Mission, to Calgary, our new partnership to deliver transit service, and the community fundraising support for both the South Branch Library and the Mady Centre for the Performing Arts as successful examples of new ways of doing business in Barrie.

I’m looking forward with real optimism to 2012, for many reasons. RVH will open their long-awaited expansion and cancer care centre, and hiring will begin in earnest. Laurentian University’s commitment to a satellite university campus, if approved by the Province, is a major opportunity for Barrie. Georgian College has opened its stunning new Sadlon Centre for Health and Wellness, and is now offering health care programs and applied science education that will help us diversify our workforce.

In 2012, the Under One Roof project can give a long-needed boost to the charities and services helping our least fortunate. The opening of the City’s new south branch library and the Allandale Waterfront Go Station early in 2012 will bring services closer to home for residents. Badly needed roadwork on Mapleview will finish, and work will begin at Duckworth at Highway 400.

As the year winds down, we need to count our blessings: we live in a safe, democratic, tolerant, and strong community; in a safe, democratic, tolerant, and strong country. Walk along our stunning lakeshore, and marvel at the mist rising from the lake, and consider the stunning beauty of living in our city by the bay. As you travel our busy streets, consider the depth and diversity of human ingenuity that is represented by the businesses in our community, and the buildings that house them. Take a moment to realize how truly lucky we have been to live in Barrie in 2011, and how lucky we will be to live here in 2012.

On behalf of City Council, please accept my sincere best wishes to you and your families for a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!