News Local

Developer would like to build housing for 1,200 college students in Barrie 3 

Bob Bruton

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner

Monday, December 9, 2013 9:22:43 EST


How can high rise student apartments and single-family homes co-exist in northeast Barrie?

That question emerged from Monday's public meeting on a rezoning application for seven properties on Georgian Drive at Highway 400, where developer F&I Gateway wants to build new housing for 1,200 college students in 13-storey buildings.

"Is there going to be a buffer between the building and the rest of the residents on Georgian Drive?" asked John Kennedy, a Georgian Drive resident. "All the noise and garbage from that site is going to roll down the street toward us."

"Thirteen storeys," said Adam Huard, also a Georgian Drive resident. "I could have a shadow in my backyard all day."

But Kennedy and Huard were the only ones to speak to the rezoning application, although Huard and Brittney Rowen have also expressed concerns about losing their privacy, shadowing, decreasing property values and students' behaviour.

Mayor Jeff Lehman noted his concern about 13 storeys near single-family homes.

"There's a substantial difference between the built forms," he said.

Coun. Brian Jackson asked if a shadow study had been done, and Glen Lucas, F&I's planner, said there isn't one, but would be provided if requested by the city.

Lucas did note that Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre is kitty corner to this site, that the student housing would not be the only large buildings in the area.

"It's not like what we are proposing will stick out like a sore thumb," he said.

F&I wants to build 300 four-bedroom student housing units in four, 13-storey buildings, in two phases, with the two towers in each phase connected by a single-storey building. 

Coun. Bonnie Ainsworth, who represents this area, has noted Barrie's 2007 Georgian College Neighbourhood Strategy pointed to this location about 10.6 acres as an ideal site for student housing.

"The report identified the need for real student housing; the long-term solution is getting student housing around the college," Lucas said. "This was considered one of the prime sites.

"More and more, colleges and universities are getting out of the housing business," Lucas said, "because that's not the business they are in. The private sector is stepping in."

Georgian College students' interaction with east-end residents has been a contentious issue for decades in Barrie, with families living side-by-side with students, some as young as 17 and 18. 

This has resulted in noise, parking and property standards complaints.

Ainsworth has said the college area has become a near-campus neighbourhood losing its balance of owner-occupied homes, along with its traditional mix of elderly, middle-aged and young residents. 

Instead, there are now mostly short-term rentals; some of the signs even say student rental housing.

So Ainsworth says new student housing there would be a relief to those who own and live in area homes.

The intention is to include on-site security at the student housing buildings, along with a fitness centre, multi-media and computer rooms, storage and indoor bicycle space. Parking would be at the rear of the buildings.

F&I would ask for a break on city parking standards, from 1.5 spaces per apartment to one space for ever four students, and to allow locks on bedroom doors.

The city could also grant financial incentives for this development on application fees, building permits and taxes.

Lucas says the goal is to have the first phase ready for occupation in September of 2015. Since it will require about 18 months to build, that would mean shovels in the ground this spring.

In addition to a rezoning, this project requires a site plan to deal with access points, what the building will look like, etc.

A public meeting is one of the first stages in Barrie's planning process. Now the application will go to city planning staff for a report, and a recommendation, to be considered by Barrie councillors.