Tackling downtown Barrie commercial patios

By J.T. McVeigh

In the summertime, Barrie has a love/hate relationship with commercial patios in the downtown area.

Restaurants and taverns seem to like them, there were 34 in downtown last year, but the design is lacking. Wooden walkways zigzagging along the street taking over street parking and making pedestrian travel an effort at times, particularly for people with mobility challenges.

Council heard a presentation on March 26, updating a project to improve the Dunlop Street corridor, from Mulcaster to Toronto Street that could satisfy a lot of concerns. Alvaro Almuina, project coordinator, presented the idea of convertible sidewalks or a flexible street. The hope is to create safe pedestrian movement with better lighting, visibility and service opportunities for businesses. During the summer, there will not be any on-street parking and the travel lanes will be a little narrower.

“The idea is there’s parking on both sides of Dunlop, from High to Mulcaster,” said Mayor Jeff Lehman. “We are going to build new sidewalks that are going to go out to the edge of where the parking is. Then, there will be bollards with chains, and the bollards will be removable onto one set of fixtures out by the curb and another in when you want to move the bollards back to allow parallel parking.”

The concept has been used with success in cities like Kitchener and Charlottetown, P.E.I. A significant change but one Lehman, for one, believes is positive.

“Initially there was a lot of controversy (with the street patios) because I think, for some, they were thinking they are just making a big beer garden,” said Lehman. “We said you had to offer a full menu, have to close the patio at 11 p.m. and no amplified music. We specifically encouraged restaurants as bars. There are 34 of them and well more than half don’t serve alcohol.”

Almunina told council planning was only 60 per cent complete, but a public information session will be held April 19 at the city hall rotunda, on the project’s design.

The first phase, from Mulcaster to Bayfield Street, would begin in the fall of 2019 with phase two from Bayfield to Toronto Street in the summer of 2020.

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