Concept to Concrete

My last posting seems to have been popular enough that I thought I would share some developer’s images of another Alcona project in the works.  The Abandel project on the north side of Innisfil Beach Road extending east from Jans Blvd. has gone through two previous proposals over the last four years. The latest design appears to be moving ahead. Billboards with artist concepts have been posted on-site presumably to attract leasing interest.

The corner site (Innisfil Beach Rd at Jans Blvd.) will provide, I believe, a multi-story mixed-use residential, office and commercial space.:

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Source: Abandel billboard image

Additional buildings with retails space will face Innisfil Beach Rd. :

Aben-Retail1

Source: Abandel billboard image -retail concept

No construction work has been initiated yet although construction is expected to progress through next year.

Meanwhile, Simcoe County continues to make progress on the widening of Innisfil Beach Rd. (County Rd. 21) to four lanes, extending east from Thornton. The Transportation and Engineering Dept. 2018 project schedule included several intersection improvements and design and engineering preparations. A recent Public Notice of property expropriation along Innisfil Beach Rd. (up to Alcona) also indicates the project is approaching another phase toward implementation.

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Apartments Construction

Not everyone passes through Alcona that often and some visitors to Innisfil Beach Park might also be curious about some current construction in the area. Apogee Apartments is  being built as part of Simcoe County’s effort to create more affordable housing in the county.  It is currently under construction on Innisfil Beach Road at the 25th Sideroad. The project is privately owned and operated. Under an agreement with the County, the units must be rented at ‘affordable’ rates for a minimum of twenty years. CMHC describes “affordable” as less than 30% of a household’s pre-tax income.

Apogee3

This building consists of a mix of 55 apartments on six floors. The ground floor will be allocated to retail spaces fronting on Innisfil Beach Road. Residents will have access to indoor and outdoor “amenities” spaces.  Construction was delayed until the OMB (now called the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal or LPAT) ruled on the builder’s request for altered lot setbacks and a reduced number of parking spaces. These changes were approved.

Floor plans and other information are available on the builder’s website, http://www.apogeeapartments.com

 

 

Urbanization Approaching Reality

On Wednesday, December 6, Council formally received a proposal for an eight-story condo with street-front retail. The development is proposed for the north side of Innisfil Beach Road, adjacent to Alcona Home Hardware and west of the corner plaza.

SeniorCondo

Development Proposal – 828 Innisfil Beach Road

The building would consist of eight floors and 80 residential units. Designed as an adult building for ‘seniors’ aged 55+, the condo units would consist of one and two bedroom layouts. The ground floor would provide a total of about 5,000 square feet of retail space along the street. Parking is situated behind the building in a lot with a landscaped perimeter. In a unique approach to snow management, a snow melter would be utilized to remove accumulations.

In some ways, watching the planning process play out in Innisfil is the municipal equivalent of watching paint dry. The final report of the Inspiring Innisfil Official Plan was released in February 2011. It advocated for an “urban core”. The design guidelines proposed multi-storey zoning in an Innisfil Beach Road commercial zone with retail situated at the street. More than six years later we are just beginning to see this concept take shape. Two other buildings are reaching completion near Adullam Ave., and a multi-storey rental building is expected to receive approval for the south side of Innisfil Beach Rd at the 25th Sideroad.

This development addresses several needs. It provides local accommodation for an aging population (a neighbor has reluctantly moved to Barrie recently); it fills a gap in the streetscape with more convenient local retail and encourages more activity (social and economic) on the street. The condo proposal has been working its way through the planning and approval process since May of 2016 and reached a final proposal of zoning bylaw amendments in November this year. The building proposal was received as ‘information only’. The development will require Council approval of some zoning bylaw amendments concerning height (8 instead of 7 stories) and small changes to setbacks. The developer’s plan comes back to Council for consideration in the spring.

Download PDF:

828 Innisfil Beach Road ZBA & OPA Presentation

Innisfil Welcomes Santa this Weekend

WindowSill

Just a note to remind my ‘younger’ readers that Santa will make a bright and colourful appearance in Cookstown during Light Up Night this Saturday (25th) which takes place from 4:00 to 6:00 pm. Enjoy treats and cider at merchants along Queen St.

The traditional Lighting of the Tree is at 6:00 p.m. followed by the Santa Claus Parade at 6:30 p.m. The party continues afterward with hot chocolate and caroling at the Cookstown Library.

Santa must love Innisfil because he’s making an encore appearance at the Alcona Santa Claus Parade on Sunday (26th) along Innisfil Beach Rd. from 25th Sideroad to Jans Blvd. starting at 1:30 p.m.

Place Making in – Alcona

Placemaking concepts contained in the draft Official Plan, Our Place, for Alcona focuses on the portion of Innisfil Beach Road from Jans Blvd. to Innisfil Beach Park as a “compact and walkable commercial core”.

“With the right mix of commercial and civic uses, active parks and plazas, and opportunities for community gatherings, Innisfil residents will have more reasons to walk.” To that end, suggestions for this area include:

  • “a town square to serve as a gateway to the commercial core of Alcona that could include a coffeehouse, outdoor seating options and a play area visible from the street. Introducing visible activity at the entrance to the commercial district will encourage people to park their cars and explore.”
  • “The parking lot at C.W. Coops is currently underutilized and has the potential to become redeveloped as a semi-enclosed public space with benches and a fountain. Parking can be relocated to the rear allowing for more visible activity on the street.”
  • “a bike/pedestrian loop via roads and trails connecting Alcona to other destinations in Innisfil.”
  • “Strengthen and intensify the corridor by encouraging mixed-use buildings with retail on the ground floor and residential above, fronting the sidewalks. Limit building heights, and consider the architectural treatment of the buildings and storefronts with the goal of enlivening the street and creating an attractive retail
  • “Program the spaces in front of and behind the library to include outdoor activities such as concerts and performances, outdoor reading rooms, art displays, movies, children’s play and small maker fairs or markets.”
  • “Create a teen hangout space with a plaza where the Idea Lab is currently located, providing indoor uses such as a pool hall and coffee bar with unique seating, and outdoor activities that could occur in the area currently occupied by the parking lot such as games, outdoor study areas, an outdoor skate park, and a lounge area.”

Several Place Making ideas extend to Innisfil Beach Park as another focus of community activity:

  • A community garden and outdoor oven to be used by the community for communal dinners, gardening events, plant sales and children’s classes.
  • Beer garden and picnic area
  • An environmental education and welcome centre that functions all year to showcase the ecological assets of the park area and connects to the nature trail along the creek.
  • Waterfront restaurants with outdoor dining
  • A quiet area to sit and relax on hammocks and lounge chairs
  • Opportunities for water activities such as such as canoeing, kayaking, water trampolines and boat rentals, supported by cafes, food kiosks and a beach shop.
  • Provide a complete walking loop around the park that can also be used for cross country skiing in the winter.
  • Transform one of the existing structures into an information and snack kiosk that opens into the park with outdoor seating options near by and located in close proximity to the playground.

Of course, the Official Plan also addresses other vital questions about parks and community spaces, transportation, neighbourhood growth, densities and development, commercial areas, employment areas, sustainability, natural heritage system, “countryside”, and Lake Simcoe shoreline. Policies and proposals in the plan aim to ensure that Innisfil is socially, culturally, physically and digitally connected.

Signs of High-Rent Blight

While Cookstown works within the framework of a Heritage Conservation District to preserve the essence of the community and Alcona struggles to create a new but traditional shopping district, both Innisfil neighbourhoods are plagued with under-utilized and undeveloped commercial spaces.

In my last article, I questioned the logic of giving property tax rebates on empty commercial spaces. It seems entirely counter-productive to the economic and social health of our community. However, in some circles, it’s seen as being ‘business-friendly’. I was told that the real problem is that Innisfil property taxes are too high. It was suggested to me that commercial rates should be lower to compete with neighbouring communities like Barrie. That seems too simplistic for a couple of reasons:

  • We already tried that approach on a national scale with lower corporate taxes and ended up with companies sitting on what the Bank of Canada described as a mountain of “dead” money. There can be little expectation that lower taxes for landlords would proportionally benefit their commercial tenants.
  • We shouldn’t necessarily be trying to energize our local economy by impoverishing a neighbor’s opportunities. Can’t we create incentives and opportunities to motivate entrepreneurship within our own growing community?

The factors involved are more complex and in trying to understand it, I came across a revealing article Continue reading