Plaza purchase will help facilitate development

Posted on Friday January 22, 2016
70 Front Street North Metro Plaza

The City of Orillia is the proud new owner of 70 Front St. N., more commonly referred to as the Metro Plaza.

“Council is excited about the future of this site and what it will mean for the long-term vision of the Downtown Tomorrow Plan and our waterfront,” said Mayor Steve Clarke. “Council is making strategic decisions today that will put the City in excellent standing for future private-sector commercial, residential and tourism development in the City’s core that will redefine our waterfront and downtown.”

The purchase of the 5.53-acre property official closed on Jan. 22, 2016, at a purchase price of $9.3 million. The City is currently in negotiations with Metro Inc. to have them purchase the Metro portion of the plaza, which, if concluded, will recoup a majority of the total purchase price. The City’s Official Plan and Downtown Tomorrow Plan highlight the importance of maintaining a grocery store in the core of the City to ensure future growth and development.

Past and present Councils identified this property as the number one property of interest for facilitating the vision of the Downtown Tomorrow Plan, which is to revitalize our City’s core and connect our waterfront with the downtown. Key to connecting the waterfront to the downtown is the extension of Coldwater Street to Centennial Drive at the waterfront.

The City had explored the potential of expropriating only the portion of the plaza property required to accommodate the proposed Coldwater Street extension. It was determined that a partial expropriation could cost the City as much as $3-million, and would have been challenged by the property owners. The City was able to acquire the entire plaza property through a contractual expropriation, which benefitted both the City and the property owner. With the potential sale of the Metro portion of the plaza, what it would have cost to expropriate the necessary property for the Coldwater Street extension, and the future sale of the southern portion of the plaza, the City’s $9.3-million purchase of a one-of-a-kind strategic property along Orillia’s waterfront will provide an excellent return on investment.

As the new owner of the plaza, the income stream provided to the City by existing tenants and potential new leases from prospective tenants will cover the cost of owning the property.

“City staff will spend significant time and energy on preparing this site for future private development opportunities that will transform this area into a vibrant waterfront location that will serve our residents, visitors, and attract future economic development opportunities for the City,” said Ian Sugden, Director of Development Services.

Council approved a Municipal Class Environmental Assessment (EA) and Design project for the realignment of Centennial Drive between Tecumseth Street and Elgin Street. When the Municipal Class EA is complete, the City will have a design for the future realignment of Centennial Drive, and a complete picture of property that could be made available at the waterfront for future private-sector commercial, residential and tourism development on the site. It will also provide what is required to extend Coldwater Street to the waterfront, which will create new opportunities for enhanced waterfront experiences for both residents and visitors. Subject to future budget approval, the demolition of that part of the plaza building that connects to the Metro store could occur 2017.

The City’s viewscapes team was formed in 2011 and began negotiating the purchase of this property in 2012. Council decided in October 2015 to conclude the purchase of the downtown plaza. The Downtown Tomorrow Plan is a visionary strategy designed to revitalize the city’s downtown and waterfront in part by improving the connections between the two. Improving connectivity and streetscapes was a primary goal of the Downtown Tomorrow Plan, with an emphasis placed on extending Coldwater Street to the waterfront.

The City of Orillia is a city of 31,000 people in the heart of Ontario’s Lake Country on the shores of Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe. Visit our website at


Ian Sugden
Director of Development Services

Jennifer Ruff
Manager of Communications
705-238-9209 (cell)