The downtown Barrie prestige office building has always reflected the best of its day; following its recent updates, it looks forward with confidence.

The five-storey prime office building at 85 Bayfield Street, just north of Collier Street, creates a gateway to Barrie’s city centre, anchoring the western edge of the City of Barrie’s — one of the fastest growing cities in Ontario — commercial financial and professional district.

Constructed in 1981 by KempBay Developments, 85 Bayfield Street offered space for a bank, a legal clinic and other professional offices. In 2003, Jamie Massie, President & CEO of Georgian International, moved the company’s headquarters into the prestigious 500 suite. 

“I look out to the most beautiful view – frozen Kempenfelt Bay, the CKVR (broadcast) tower,” said Massie. “It’s been really motivational for me to look out and be stimulated. It’s spectacular.”

Shortly after Georgian International moved in, Massie got to work on giving the building a new, modern look in line with the company’s values and priorities. Inside the building, “we’ve renovated every square foot, including the lobby,” explained Massie. 

They also added new front and rear lobbies and updated the stairwells. Outside the building, Massie created a setting to showcase the prime office space and to address some challenges tenants faced. 

The Challenges

When it was constructed, the downtown commercial building was located up the street from Steele’s China Shop, owned by one of the original KempBay principals, Harris Steele. Between the china shop and the commercial property were some low rise buildings that housed businesses including an optician’s studio and a financial planner, as well as a take-out Italian restaurant. 

There was little room for parking and the commercial property turned inward. The 1980s design, with access limited to interior building entry, disconnected it from the neighbourhood.   

“It was very much out of the late 1980s; simple architecture and precast concrete, simple curtain walls. It was very typical of its time,” said Salter Pilon Architecture’s Ryan Stitt. 

“There was a disconnect from allowing visitors to access the building correctly,” Stitt explained, “and there was an uninviting message with a legal clinic on the ground floor”.  

Another challenge was flow — how people moved around and used the space. The 1980s design made it feel cold, explained Stitt, and changes were needed to improve not only the look but the feel and flow of the space, inside and out.

The Solutions

To modernize and improve the space, Massie worked with his tenants to bring the commercial office space from the 1980s into the 2020s. Some changes were cosmetic, while others focused on function. 

Thought was given to how people use the building, whether they are employees or visitors, as well as their enjoyment of the space. It included how light flows as well as how people use the building’s common areas — not just their office — and the area around the building.  

Addressing those needs required more space outside, to provide convenient parking as well as larger and brighter lobbies. 

Commercial property for sale on both Bayfield and Worsely streets were acquired to provide space for the building and for parking. A second-level employee lot was constructed on Worsely along with a dedicated entrance. Inside the building, upgrades focused on creating collaborative workspaces.

A café that is filled with light in the warmer months, provides a more informal but collaborative space with clients as well as a space to relax and link with the community friends over lunch. 

Light fills the café when the days are longer and provides a space for office professionals to recharge and meet others in the building and friends from the community. The Common Good has a sophisticated urban vibe. 

“I love it. I eat there every day,” said Massie, adding that a restaurant was part of the plan to better serve the firms that have chosen the building, as well as their employees. 

The café can be accessed by a door that opens from beside the patio, with a southern view, or an interior door from the main building lobby. 

Just beyond the café’s three-season patio, there’s ample room to park, which draws in people coming to the downtown core by car. There’s well-kept green space that extends to the corner of Collier and Bayfield streets, further enhancing the connection with the downtown core and community. 

“We wanted our building to reflect us as a company, a community-driven business in the downtown core,” said Massie. “It’s a good, vibrant space.”

The Results

Inside and out, the prestige commercial office building demonstrates thoughtful care for everyone who enters the building, as well as quality workmanship, style and stability.

“Jamie is about quality. He’s not just about making it functional. He wanted a good design, form and quality,” said Stitt. “Workmanship is important.”

Massie added he wanted to build on the KempBay Developments’ legacy of helping build downtown Barrie as a good place for business. Given its proximity to Toronto, Barrie’s industrial real estate market is growing by leaps and bounds, with recent insights suggesting it is mimicking trends in the GTA.

Comparatively affordable commercial property for sale in the downtown makes it a popular choice for investors, but it’s important to choose a commercial realtor who knows the area and has extensive knowledge of local market conditions. 

Squarefoot Commercial Group, CCIM-educated commercial realtors with more than 55 years of commercial real estate experience, provides the highest level of commercial real estate expertise and experience in the Simcoe County Region. Contact us today!