GTA Construction Report special feature
Orillia’s economic development initiatives have enhanced rhe Simcoe County crossroads community’s appeal to businesses, tourists and residents. It has been ranked among the top Ontario investment towns for 2013-2018 by the Real Estate Investment Network and a significant increase in building permit applications to more than $70 million annually indicates that development is accelerating.
The community, an hour north of the GTA on the shores of Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe, has a vibrant tourism industry as well as manufacturing, government services, retail and customer service businesses.
Two major roadways (Highways 11 and 12) reach the community. Orillia is located just 10 minutes from Simcoe Regional Airport, with passenger, freight, and full Canada Customs service.
The city has low-cost land, industrial development incentives and an expedited development approval process, improving its appeal for businesses wishing to capture opportunities in all directions.
Economic development manager Dan Landry says Orillia offers 150 fully serviced acres for business and industrial development. “Add to that Lakehead University’s construction of a $45-million regional campus which has brought youthful vibrancy to the city, along with a steady stream of employment candidates. As you can see, Orillia is well-positioned for growth and opportunity.”
Landry says, in addition to Orillia’s abundant and accessible natural beauty and four-season recreational opportunities, the city also offers superb health care at Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital. The state-of-the-art 230-bed regional hospital recently underwent an $83-million redevelopment and expansion.
“The general headquarters for the Ontario Provincial Police is located in Orillia, and Casino Rama, the province’s most successful commercial casino, providing world-class entertainment, is just a few minutes outside of town.”
Landry says more than $100-million of proposed plans for commercial, retail and residential developments are keeping city staff in the planning division busy, indicating a mini- building boom may be on the horizon.
“Proposed development in Orillia is looking up, according to recent building permit statistics and increased activity in the City’s Development Services Department. There has been lots of development proposal activity happening this spring and summer.”
Among the city’s key developments:
- The Matchedash Lofts project at 21 Matchedash St. South (former Paterson Pontiac dealership). The proposal calls for ground floor retail space, plus six live-work units, and a further 67 residential condominiums.
- Orchard Point Condominium (Phase 2) project which proposes a second building on Lake Simcoe near the Atherley Bridge, with approximately 89 residential condominium units.
- Saytar Developments (570 Laclie St.) proposing an eight-storey building with 70 residential condominium units.
- A multiple-residential development at 1038 Mississaga St. W. (22 residential units).
- Charter Construction is moving towards Phases 4 and 5 of its Draft Plan of Subdivision registration, which will create at least an additional 87 residential lots. Charter is also moving forward on a six unit commercial development in the West Ridge commercial area on the north side of Monarch Dr. … mainly for food and restaurant use.
- Developers have recently purchased 600 Sundial Dr., the site of the former Sundial Inn, and are proposing a retirement home with up to 144 suites.
- Planning for development of the long-planned Costco in West Orillia continues.
- Mariposa Market is looking at a potential 1,000 sq. ft. two-storey expansion at the rear of the existing building.
“Building permits to the end of June, 2015, show residential permits at levels 2.5 times higher than this time last year,” Landry said. “This is up from just under $6-million to just under $16.5-million.”
He says there have been three times as many single family homes built to date this year than last year. Indications from the builders he says show that many are sold before they are built.
Landry says the city is proactively moving forward to support economic development.
“The city has now worked through the timing of road improvements in the area of Hwy. 12 through West Orillia that have been deemed necessary by MTO in order to address existing and future development, including the proposed Costco project.”
Overall, Landry says building activity is up by more than $3-million over this time last year. “Building activity has been trending upward for the last three years … $35 million in 2013, $70 million in 2014 (and) it’s expected building permits will top $70-million this year.”
Landry says Orillia has been seen as an underdeveloped, undervalued opportunity for the past few years. “The Real Estate Investment Network has identified this area as the next wave, as development and land costs to the south continue to increase. With interest rates staying low, investors are looking for a better return on their investment dollar,” he said.
For more information, visit http://www.orillia.ca/en/doingbusinessinorillia/abouttheeconomicdevelopmentoffice.asp.