Ontario Construction Report staff writer
Innisfil Council supports a futuristic design for the new GO Train station at the centre of a new Mobility Orbit transit-centred planned community, largely on lands owned by the Cortel Group.
“This is obviously a key piece of infrastructure for the town . . . and a template for more sustainable growth, said Director of Growth Tim Cane, describing the Orbit as an “aspirational plan for development” over the next 50 years and beyond.
“Some things will be happening within 20 years, I can guarantee you that, but this plan is here for the longer term, Cane said.
Constructions could start in 2022.
Alex Josephson, of Partisans Group, told council the project represents “the future of transit” in Canada.
“It’s an extraordinary opportunity to build a future on a blank slate. There’s very few places in the world that have this opportunity.”
Josephson presented a futuristic city centre encircling the GO transit station that has been designed with inspiration from the Ponte Vecchio in Italy. The development includes significant retail and residential spaces and was compared to the transformation of Union Station in Toronto.
“We are turning infrastructure on its head,” Josephson said.
The Orbit is a planned city of concentric rings, with the station in its heart. Cortel Group, owns the surrounding lands.
Josephson says the market is unknown, but the proposal within 200 metres of the station, will include midrise to high-rise residential buildings and Phase 1 would include construction of the GO station and higher density residential.
“The whole Orbit is conceived as a walkable, bike-able city… a concentric garden city plan,” he said. The GO Station would be the “catalyzing moment” that allows Innisfil to start building out.
Architect Steven Kirshenblatt, senior partner at Kirkor Architects and Planners, wants the town to put the brakes on the Orbit plan.
“Why this town is trying to tackle this type of concept, when all this town is really trying to do is secure a GO stop on the line between Barrie and Toronto – it is going way beyond the Official Plan,” he said, adding that Innisfil’s Official Plan designates Alcona as the growth centre.
He offered his expertise and advice to the town at no charge and questioned why council is ignoring the Official Plan and abandoning the rural community and “small town feel” of Innisfil’s countryside.
“There is no economic sense in what is being proposed,” Kirshenblatt said. “Slow down the process.”
“I’m nervous about you all tying yourselves so tightly into one developer and beholding to one developer, getting the town and all of us beholding to one developer to achieve a stop on this GO line.”
Kirshenblatt urged the town to develop a secondary plan for the subject lands, slow down the process, and get public input on a vision that would see Innisfil eventually grow to 150,000 people.
“This is not smart growth in this location,” he said. This is raping the countryside.”
“This is nuts. I have a really bad feeling about where this is all leading.”.
Deputy Mayor Dan Davidson questioned whether the developer will contribute $60 to $100 million for the project.
“We’re getting artists’ renditions. We’re not getting anything concrete,” said Deputy Mayor “This Orbit sounds exciting, but I don’t know if it is realistic.”
Chief Administrative Officer Jason Reynar convinced council to move forward process moving forward, including a Strategic Action Plan in September, and fast-tracking of planning approvals. He called the plan an opportunity for Innisfil to “write our own destiny of growth.”
“We wanted to decide how we wanted to grow,” said Mayor Lynn Dollin. “We didn’t want growth to happen to us.”
According to the staff report, phasing of a project this size will be important.
“It should be clear that timing to achieve the Orbit Station will ebb and flow with market demands and financial realities, but the vision will be achieved.”
Phase 1 will include:
- Station facilities on the east and west side of the tracks (subject to Metrolinx requirements). Supporting infrastructure for opening will include bus/vehicle drop off areas on the east and west side of the tracks and multiuse trail connections along the linear park connected to the 5th and 7th Lines.
- 6th Line Bridge replacement constructed to integrate with developments on the north and south sides, as well as designed to accommodate Metrolinx operational needs for ultimately 3 tracks and electrification.
- Mixed Use Blocks – Provision of residential and non-residential/employment uses to coincide with Orbit Station opening. Phase 1 to include all decking north of the 6th Line to for programmable space over 4 seasons and connected via stairs and ramps to the multiuse trails at rail grade. The decking will form part of the underground parking structures required for the Orbit Station and residential/employment uses.
Phase 1 may also include the signature architectural feature on the deck over the station to anchor and “ignite the Orbit Vision.”
After a lengthy debate, council voted to move forward – with a secondary plan that would be normally approved first –to accelerate construction of the GO Station.
“We’re not paying for this. This is a developer-driven, this is a Metrolinx-driven project. Delaying this, what we’re showing the developer is we have cold feet,” agreed Councillor Waters. “We want a GO station, and we want something better than what everyone else has.”
Council voted to begin implementing the Orbit vision, directing staff to facilitate town “reviews and permissions to advance detailed design and construction of the Orbit station and surrounding centre of mass,” with a projected 2022 start to construction.
The town solicitor was directed to work on legal agreements that include a Joint Consultant Agreement, regarding station design.
No cost was provided for the Mobility Orbit, but a the staff report says the development represents “a multi-billion dollar project for the town.”