Waterfront Development

The City of Orillia purchased the 5.5 acre commercial plaza at 70 Front Street North in 2016 in order to facilitate the extension of Coldwater Street to Centennial Drive. As the City owns other lands that are adjacent to the plaza property, there is an opportunity to create a larger parcel that is approximately 8 acres in area that could offer greater opportunities for redevelopment and downtown revitalization. The City has the ability to sell surplus lands through a simple property sale, however, since the City is able to offer a larger strategically located parcel within the downtown core, Council wanted to ensure that any future development would be transformative in nature, compatible with existing uses, and consistent with the vision set out in the Downtown Tomorrow Plan before releasing the land to a developer. The Waterfront Development Analysis project scope included a core development analysis which encompassed a market sounding (discussions with market experts/developers), review of potential partners and land assembly options, concept sketches, phasing options and a pro-forma for the preferred development (cost analysis).

 Background Information

In September 2012, the Downtown Tomorrow: Linking Orillia's Core to the Water study (or Downtown Tomorrow Plan as it's commonly referred to) was received by Council. The Downtown  Tomorrow Plan recommended 33 Strategic Initiatives, and 20 Priority Action Items to better connect the downtown core and waterfront areas. Within these goals, the Plan identified opportunities to extend several City streets to the waterfront (viewscapes), redesign and extend Centennial Drive and extend the retail experience to the waterfront.

In 2015, the Orillia Port Area Public Realm Plan was adopted by City Council in principle. This Plan supports the implementation of seven of the Downtown Tomorrow Plan’s strategic initiatives and recommends guidelines for the private realm area surrounding the Port of Orillia. Significant public consultation was undertaken during the preparation of this Plan. 

On January 22, 2016, the City acquired the property located at 70 Front Street North. One key factor in the City acquiring this property was to facilitate the extension of Coldwater Street through this property to connect with Centennial Drive.

Since this acquisition, Council established a Waterfront Working Group (WWG), consisting of four members of Council, with staff support from a number of City departments.

In February of 2017, the WWG presented a report to Council outlining opportunities to reprioritize a number of planned road reconstruction projects in order to enable an acceleration of necessary road and infrastructure improvements in the waterfront area, to better position lands for development.

In March 2017, the City retained Leith Moore, of Waverley Projects Inc., to undertake a development analysis of the 70 Front Street North site together with portions of other surrounding lands owned by the municipality. Mr. Moore was tasked with assisting Council and City staff in understanding the development potential of the subject lands in order to determine how best to market the site and adjacent municipally-owned lands in a manner that may best facilitate the redevelopment of the area.

In December 2017, the WWG brought forward Mr. Moore's Development Analysis seeking direction as it pertained to the Preferred Development Concept.

 Preferred Development Concept

In December 2017 Council provided their support in principle for the Preferred Development Concept. This design provided Council and staff with a visual representation of what could be built on the lands, and this allowed the City to proceed with the disposal process.

Moving forward it should be clarified that this is not the final preferred development concept for the subject lands. Since 2017 significant due diligence work has taken place and a set of 12 Development Principles has been identified in the Request for Qualification document by which any future proposals should be evaluated. The Preferred Development Concept is being provided on this webpage for reference only, as it is identified in several staff reports and Council resolutions.

Preferred Development Concept

3D Model of the Preferred Development Concept

 Staff/Committee Reports

70 Front Street North Expropriation of Rights - March 25, 2019

Waterfront Official Plan Amendment

Waterfront Zoning By-law Amendment

Supplementary Memo - January 21, 2019

Waterfront Development Team Report to Council Committee - January 14, 2019

Supplementary Memo - December 21, 2018

Public Meeting re: Planning Matter (Addendum) - December 21, 2018

Notice of Public Meeting re: Municipally-Initiated Official Plan Amendment and Zoning By-Law Amendment on December 21st, 2018

Staff Report – Public Meeting Nov. 26, 2018 - Waterfront Redevelopment Lands OPA/ZBA

Waterfront Development Implementation Plan Report to Council Committee - August 13, 2018

Waterfront Development Implementation Plan Presentation to Council Committee - August 13, 2018

Waterfront Working Group Report to Special Council Committee - February 21, 2018

Waterfront Working Group Report to Special Council - December 1, 2017

Development Analysis - Presentation to Council December 1, 2017 (by Waverley Projects)

Reports and Presentations

Supplementary Memo - January 21, 2019

Waterfront Development Team Report to Council Committee - January 14, 2019

Supplementary Memo - December 21, 2018

Public Meeting re: Planning Matter (Addendum) - December 21, 2018

Staff Report – Public Meeting Nov. 26, 2018 - Waterfront Redevelopment Lands OPA/ZBA

Waterfront Development Implementation Plan Report to Council Committee - August 13, 2018

Waterfront Development Implementation Plan Presentation to Council Committee - August 13, 2018

Waterfront Working Group Report to Special Council Committee - February 21, 2018

Waterfront Working Group Report to Special Council - December 1, 2017

Development Analysis - Presentation to Council December 1, 2017 (by Waverley Projects)

Due diligence reports and investigations completed for 70 Front Street North:

Phase I Environmental Site Assessment

Phase II Environmental Site Assessment

Supplemental Phase II Environmental Site Assessment

Screening Level Risk Assessment

2018 Groundwater Sampling Event

Due diligence reports and investigations completed for City-owned Vacant Lands:

Phase One Environmental Site Assessment

Phase One Environmental Site Assessment - Figures

Phase One Environmental Site Assessment - Appendices, 1 of 2

Phase One Environmental Site Assessment - Appendices, 2 of 2

Phase Two Environmental Site Assessment

Remedial Action Plan - Mixed Land Use

Remedial Action Plan 

 News Releases

News Release - Orillia seeking qualified candidates to redevelop waterfront lands

70 Front Project Update - February 22, 2019

News Release - City securing development rights over the southern portion of 70 Front Street N. - February 22, 2019

News Release - Dec. 21 public meeting for downtown waterfront will start at 12 p.m. - Originally scheduled for 10 a.m., the meeting will recess and reconvene due to a personal matter - December 19, 2018

News Release - Second public meeting for the downtown waterfront area on Dec. 21 - December 17, 2018

News Release - Key Forum on waterfront plans set for Monday Night - November 24, 2018

News Release - Preparations for waterfront development moving forward - November 14, 2018

News Release - Council green lights next phase of Waterfront Development Project - August 21, 2018

City of Orillia News Release - December 1, 2017

City of Orillia News Release - March 6, 2018

 Current Status

April 2019


A Request for Qualifications (RFQ) was published on April 9, 2019. Submissions are due by April 30, 2019, and the City anticipates announcing the shortlist of prequalified proponents by May 22, 2019.


February 2019

To enable the transformative redevelopment of 70 Front St. N., the City of Orillia is pursuing steps to secure the right to redevelop the City-owned land on the southern portion of the site. The City has met with the applicable tenants and look forward to ongoing dialogue.


The Request for Qualifications (RFQ) and Request for Proposals (RFP) documents are underway and the City is on track to release the RFQ in spring of 2019 with a release of the RFP anticipated for late summer 2019.


October 2018

On August 16, 2018 Council directed to staff to pre-designate and pre-zone 4.83 ha (12 acres) of land, referred to herein as the Waterfront Redevelopment Area, to facilitate the redevelopment of the lands for a range of residential and commercial uses. The intent of the site-specific Official Plan policies and Zoning By-law provisions is to implement the vision contained in the City’s Downtown Tomorrow Plan and the Orillia Port Area Public Realm Plan.


The City will hold a Public Meeting on these proposed Official Plan policies and Zoning By-law provisions for the Waterfront Redevelopment Area on Monday, November 26th at 5:30pm in the Council Chamber at the Orillia City Centre (50 Andrew Street South). Everyone is welcomed and encouraged to attend this Public Meeting. At this Public Meeting, members of the public will be able to address Council directly to share their opinions and ask questions. Written comments are encouraged to be submitted prior to the Public Meeting on November 26th at 5:30pm and are to be submitted to planning@orillia.ca quoting File Nos. D09-199 and D14-877. If you have questions about the proposed Official Plan and Zoning By-law changes, please contact Jill Lewis at 705-329-7241 or jlewis@orillia.ca

August 2018

Staff brought forward Report WWG-18-04 to Council Committee on August 13, 2018. This report provided a comprehensive update on the Waterfront Development Implementation Plan. On August 16, 2018, Council subsequently provided their unanimous support of the Waterfront Development Implementation Plan. 

Moving forward, the City will proceed to begin a Development Approval process to designate and rezone the lands in accordance with the Preferred Development Concept. The City will simultaneously prepare a Request for Proposal document for the sale of the subject lands, which staff anticipate releasing in the spring of 2019.

Staff will also bring forward capital budget requests for a Waterfront Park Design Plan and a Waterfront Area Traffic and Parking Analysis through the 2019 budget process.

February 2018

On February 21, 2018, the City’s Waterfront Working Group (WWG), consisting of four members of Council and City staff from various departments, provided their first implementation update to Council regarding the project. Implementation of project of this magnitude is complex and includes a variety of decisions points which may impact the project timeline and/or budget. The recommendation to recieve the report as information and allocate $30,000 for legal work for the project was adopted at the March 5, 2018 Council meeting.

Report WWG-01-18 included a timeline analysis and briefing notes on the following:

  • Lease and Tenant Matters
  • Environmental - Land
  • Environmental – Stormwater
  • Parking
  • Planning Approvals
  • Financial Incentives
  • Parkland
  • Hydro Relocation
  • Construction and Staging Plan


December 2017

At the Special Council Meeting on December 1, 2017, Council provided their support in principle for the Preferred Development Concept.

Council's support extended to general design principles such as low to medium density mixed use development, building height which is in keeping with the heights and density proposed in the Downtown Tomorrow Plan, live/work and/or commercial units along Mississaga Street East and potentially Centennial Drive, and waterfront facing residential development along Centennial Drive.

The Preferred Development Concept is a high-level plan for development. In order for Council to move forward, staff must first provide detailed reports on factors related to implementation of the plan (costs, development approvals, disposal process, timeline).

 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1.  Why did the City purchase 70 Front Street North?

In 2016 the City purchased 70 Front St. N. The Downtown Tomorrow Plan (the City's long-term vision for the downtown and waterfront) recommended the acquisition of strategic parcels in the waterfront area so that the City could facilitate future redevelopment of these sites. The purchase of 70 Front St. N. also allowed the City to secure lands needed to extend Coldwater Street to Centennial Drive in order to improve the connections between the Lake Couchiching waterfront and the downtown.


2. How does the future redevelopment of the site benefit me as a taxpayer?

The future redevelopment of 70 Front St. N. will result in new residents, stores and services and job opportunities in the downtown core. Residents and visitors alike will be able to enjoy the site more fully, spend time at the new public square and the downtown will be more vibrant on a year-round basis. Overall we expect the redevelopment of the lands will increase the tax base, stimulate development on surrounding lands and improve the local economy through increased patronage to downtown stores and services.


3. Why does the City want to redevelop 70 Front Street North?

Currently 70 Front St. N. is underutilized, results in a visual and physical gap between the downtown and the waterfront, and the rear of the building faces the Port of Orillia, which does not present an appropriate “first impression” for visitors arriving by boat.

The Downtown Tomorrow Plan (2012) sets out a long-term vision to help guide the City's future infrastructure investments, and private-sector redevelopment decisions, in a manner that would achieve the downtown revitalization goals of the Plan. A redevelopment of 70 Front St. N. upholds this vision through the extension of Coldwater Street to Centennial Drive, extending the existing retail environment to the waterfront and increasing the capacity for people to live and work in the downtown core. A redevelopment of the site would leverage the attractiveness of Orillia's Lake Couchiching waterfront, and present a welcoming new face to visitors arriving at the Port of Orillia; improving the connections between the downtown and the waterfront.


4.  Will the site include residential uses?

The Downtown Tomorrow Plan recommended that redevelopment in the "Downtown-at-the-Lake" precinct consist primarily of residential uses in order to increase the amount of people living, working and shopping in the downtown core. Having more people living in the downtown area, helps the City accommodate its projected growth needs through infill and intensification, while also ensuring that more people are available to work, shop  and dine in the downtown area. Together, these factors will ensure that the downtown is vibrant throughout the year.


5.  What will happen to the Metro grocery store and its employees?

Currently Metro has a long-term lease for at least another decade. In January 2019, Council directed staff to expropriate certain lease rights from Metro and Subway that otherwise would have prevented a redevelopment of the southern portion of the site. This direction does not impact Metro’s ability to remain on the site and staff intend to work with Metro to mitigate any potential disruptions to the store during construction of the waterfront infrastructure work (i.e. reconstruction of Front Street North, Coldwater Street and Centennial Drive).


6. What does “expropriation of rights” mean and why is the City doing this?

An expropriation typically refers to the taking of land by an expropriating authority (such as a municipality) without the consent of the owner. This is done through a defined process as set out in the Expropriations Act. In this case, the City is not taking land (as the City already owns this land), but is instead removing some of the tenants’ lease rights over the City’s land by expropriating certain lease rights.

Currently Metro and Subway have terms within their lease that prevent the City from demolishing the southern portion of the plaza and/or repurpose the parking lot area without their permission. The City has been in discussion with Metro and Subway and both are aware of the City’s intention to redevelop the southern portion of 70 Front St. N. The City has attempted to gain Metro’s consent to extend Coldwater Street and redevelop the southern portion of the site; the City will continue to work with Metro on this matter.

There are approximately seven additional encumbrances or rights on the municipally owned land which the City may remove through expropriation. The City will work to minimize the impact on all of the rights holders in a manner that still allows the waterfront project to move forward.


7.  How much will it cost for the City to develop the lands?

While the City has completed an analysis for future development, the actual development will not be built by the City. The intention is for the City to prepare the infrastructure (public roads, sewers etc.) and a private developer to purchase and develop the property in a manner which aligns with Council’s development principles. Public information regarding projected revenues and the final sale price for the land will remain confidential throughout the disposal process, as is standard in municipal real estate transactions, to protect the integrity of property negotiations.


8.  When does the City of Orillia plan to demolish the southern portion of the plaza?

The demolition of the southern portion of the site will be coordinated with the Centennial Drive reconstruction project. Current plans contemplate the demolition happening in the second half of 2020.


9.  What about parking?

When considering the redevelopment of 70 Front Street North and the adjacent rail bed, Council and staff will be looking to ensure that any parking requirements as a result of the new development are contained within the development lands.

Council recognizes that parking in the waterfront area is important to all residents. While parking does facilitate visitors and customers in the downtown core, parking lots themselves are very costly to the taxpayer to build and retain, and they provide little direct economic benefits. This means that it’s important for Council and staff to thoroughly evaluate parking needs, alternatives and solutions.

This evaluation will take place through three steps:

1. Once the winning proposal for the municipal lands has been selected the City will have a better understanding of what land uses are proposed on the lands, as well as the on-site parking plans.

2. Council has directed staff to undertake a Waterfront Park Design Plan. Once the Waterfront Park Design Plan is complete, the City will understand what park amenities are planned.

3. Once we have a clear understanding of the parking requirements of the planned development and any proposed amenities of the Waterfront Park Design Plan this will inform the Parking and Traffic Demand Management Study.


10.  Does the City require residential units to be “affordable housing” on this site?

The City will identify the objectives of the development within the Request for Proposals document. While these objectives have not yet been set, staff do not anticipate that affordable housing will be a requirement of the development.

Affordable housing is being addressed in other areas of the City, including the downtown area. The affordable housing target for the City of Orillia is to achieve 164 new affordable units by 2024. As of September 30, 2018, a total of 132 units have already been achieved, through means such as rent supplements, secondary suites, and home ownership down payment assistance.

Affordable housing in the City of Orillia is addressed at a County level, and is managed by the County of Simcoe’s Social Housing Department.


11.  Did Council consider enlarging the adjacent parkland?

Yes, the enlargement of the adjacent parkland was considered by the Waterfront Working Group and Council.

When considering this, Council members carefully evaluated various factors such as the cost of parkland, the return on investment of parkland (both in terms of quality of life and in tax assessment) and the current use of the land to be developed.

According to the 2017 BMA Study, the City of Orillia already contributes approximately 50% more than the average municipality on parkland (based on net costs per capita excluding amortization). Community members have significant access to waterfront lands through City parks (Couchiching Beach Park, Tudhope Park, Leacock Museum lands, Veteran’s Park, Port of Orillia) and three nearby Provincial Parks.

As such, in August of 2018, Council made the decision to retain the existing footprint of waterfront parklands (with a minor expansion to include French’s Stand) and proceed with development of 70 Front Street North and the adjacent rail bed. This design approach has been reflected in the Municipal Class Environmental Assessment and Detailed Design for the proposed Centennial Drive Realignment Project.


12.  Will Centennial Park or Couchiching Beach Park be reduced in size?

No, in fact Centennial Park will increase in size as it is proposed to realign to Centennial Drive to run behind (west of) French’s Stand.


13. How will the concept get developed and by whom?

The City intends to release a Request for Qualifications to identify a short-list of qualified developers. A Request for Proposals (RFP) will follow, and all development proposals will be thoroughly vetted prior to the City selecting a proponent. Through the upcoming RFP process, the Waterfront Working Group will establish evaluation criteria which will score proposals more favorably that meet Council’s overall development principles.


14. What heights are permitted in the Waterfront Redevelopment Lands?

The minimum permitted height is 2 storeys or equivalent (which means a building might only have one functional storey but from the exterior of the building it will need to look as though it is two storeys in height).


The maximum height varies depending on the location. The map below shows the various height restrictions which range from a maximum height of 4 storeys to a maximum height of 8 storeys depending on the location. Any proposal for 8 storeys will be subject to a Zoning By-law Amendment application and will only be considered on portions of the land shown on the map below that allow up to 8 storeys (otherwise an Official Plan Amendment would also be required).


Buildings in excess of three storeys are required to be “stepped back” from Coldwater Street, Mississaga Street East, and Centennial Drive on a 45-degree angular plane, with the intent of providing viewscapes to the lake, limiting shadows, and mitigating the appearance of the building size.

 Key map identifying permitted heights


15. How did community consultation shape this project?

Significant community consultation has informed the development of the Downtown Tomorrow Plan, the Port of Orillia Area Public Realm Plan, and the Downtown Tomorrow Community Improvement Plan over the last six years, all of which are guiding documents for the redevelopment of the municipal waterfront lands.  


16. Who are the members of the Waterfront Working Group (WWG)?

As of November 2018, the Waterfront Working Group consists of Mayor Clarke, Councillor Cipolla, Councillor Emond and Councillor Lauer. The WWG is supported by staff from a range of City departments.


17. What are the next steps?

Please refer to the "Current Status" section of this project webpage for information on the current status and next steps.


18. How do I get more information?

Further information can be found on the project webpage at orillia.ca/waterfront, or by contacting the Manager of Real Estate and Commercial Development at 705-325-4900 or lthompson@orillia.ca

 Waterfront Development Mailing List
 Stay in the loop by signing up here to recieve updates on this project.
Request for Qualifications

*Please note there is a mandatory site visit scheduled for Tuesday, April 23, 2019. Proponents are required to submit the required Non-disclosure and Payment Authorization Form by Thursday, April 18, 2019 at 12:00 p.m. noon in order to take part in this site visit. 


The City of Orillia is selling the municipal waterfront lands through a two-phase disposal process. The first phase is the Request for Qualifications (RFQ), which assists the City in determining a shortlist of qualified proponents who share Council’s vision. The second phase is the Request for Proposals (RFP), which will allow the shortlisted proponents to submit their detailed redevelopment proposal for the site.


The foundational elements of the RFQ can be found below. Submission requirements, scoring criteria and appendices are available through the Bids and Tenders website (subject to a fee of $1,000 plus HST and the signing of a non-disclosure agreement).


The City anticipates that the shortlist of qualified proponents will be announced in late June 2019.


Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for Purchase and Redevelopment (Parts 1-4)

Non-disclosure Form

Link to Bids and Tenders website

 In the News

RFQ Ready to Go - Novae Res Urbis, Wednesday, April 3, 2019

(Posted with permission of the publisher of NRU
Publishing Inc. Original article first appeared in Novae Res Urbis – GTHA
Edition, Vol. 22, No. 14, Wednesday, April 3, 2019)

Making Connections - Novae Res Urbis, Wednesday, August 29, 2018

(Posted with permission of the publisher of NRU
Publishing Inc. Original article first appeared in Novae Res Urbis – GTHA
Edition, Vol. 21, No. 34, Wednesday, August 29, 2018)

Ambitious waterfront plans moving 'full steam ahead' - Orillia Matters, August 13, 2018

Orillia Council envisions new 'neighbourhood' at waterfront- Orillia Today, December 5, 2017

Orillia Plans to renovate Downtown - CTV News, December 5, 2017

Downtown Tomorrow Plan closer to reality - News Release, December 1, 2017

Orillia makes waterfront development a priority - News Release, February 13, 2017

Revitalizing Orillia's Downtown and Waterfront through Infrastructure Improvements - CTV News, February 2017