Barrie area’s commercial, industrial real estate market heating up

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Opening doors

Sunny Jung recently opened Everleigh Garden, a gift and housewares store in downtown Barrie. – Chris Simon/Metroland

When Sunny Jung moved to Barrie just over a year ago, she immediately saw the potential for a successful business venture.

The former Newmarket resident fell in love with Kempenfelt Bay, the downtown core and the friendliness of the city’s residents. So she opened Everleigh Garden, a gift and houseware shop on Dunlop Street nearly two months ago. She found the perfect location with a good lease and easy access to Heritage and Centennial parks.

“I just wanted to do something different,” she said, wearing a grey apron and standing behind the store counter as her mother-in-law tidied the shelves nearby. “I saw the potential. I didn’t see any true gift store, so I did some research. The city is putting money into the waterfront and condos are going to go up.”

Recent media reports indicate the Greater Toronto Area housing market may be cooling off. But that sudden shift shouldn’t translate into the commercial and industrial side of real estate in Barrie.

While it’s often more difficult to get an exact handle on the non-residential side of the real estate market — commercial and industrial properties aren’t tracked on MLS in the same manner as housing sales — industrial property sales are often a key indicator of the strength of the local economy, Sutton Group Incentive Realty real estate broker and Barrie and District Association of Realtors board member Stephanie Maye said.

In the first quarter of 2017, the average price of vacant employment land was $294,056 per acre, up from $205,150 in 2016. Meanwhile, the average lease rate per square foot was $5.72 in Q1 of 2016, compared to $8.64 during the same period this year.

“There are some ties to the residential real estate market in that when values are up there is more equity for entrepreneurs to invest in what they know and understand — the buildings in which they operate,” Maye said. “But for the most part the decision making happening in this market is still pragmatic, coherent and not based on speculation.”

There’s plenty of reason for optimism in the commercial and industrial market in the months to come. Online retail sales are increasing, meaning there’s a much greater demand for warehouse space.

“Increased pressures in cost of land are driving demand for buildings with higher ceilings because you can increase your usable space for each square foot,” Maye said. “We saw over 28 acres of industrial land in the built city boundary purchased last year which I anticipate will translate into a couple hundred thousand square feet of new product in the next two years.”

Higher lease rates also push developers to build, she said.

“Developers are ready, which will allow Barrie to see some good growth in the coming months,” Maye said.

Other potential growth areas in the coming years will include the city’s annexed land area, Innisfil, which is now viewed as an innovation hub thanks to creative ideas like the Uber partnership, and Oro-Medonte, due to the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport linkage to the Southern Ontario Airport Network, she said.

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