Tearing down the old arena to build affordable housing, creating a skating rink and splash pad along the Muskoka River and potentially a museum in the former Bracebridge Library. These were just a few of the items included in a comprehensive downtown master plan released to Town council during the latest Bracebridge general committee meeting.
The master plan was completed by the firm Brook McIlroy, who have completed similar work with Thunder Bay, Collingwood and North Bay.
Speaking to councillors, staff from Brook McIlroy walked them through the plan which was wide ranging and encompassed, Manitoba Street, Bracebridge Bay, Woodchester Villa and other parts of the downtown area.
Representatives from Brook McIlroy laid out extensive redevelopment plans for the area which is now home to Rona, and was purchased by the Town in 2017. The master plan includes redeveloping the entire area to make it a four-season waterfront park. That would include a 10,000 sq foot splash pad with five-inch wading pool in the summer and a skating rink in the winter.
The Rona area would also include public washrooms and change area, a trail system around the perimeter and a new home for the Bracebridge Farmers Market. The area along the Muskoka River would feature cantilevered picnic tables suspended over the water.
The area would also be home to a commercial/ retail space with wrap-around front porch and potentially a roof-top patio overlooking the river.
That revamped downtown would also need some increased visible linkage to the Woodchester Villa, perhaps using some type of storybook trail, council heard. It was also suggested that the area around the Villa include a sculpture garden and a cafe or tea house to be located in the Villa, incorporating the heritage aspects of the building.
Manitoba Street would also be given a streetscape makeover with concrete bollards installed that could be used to help increase pedestrian areas as well as patio space for downtown businesses.
Council also heard that the Bracebridge Library, which will soon be relocated inside the new arena on Salmon Avenue, could potentially be used as a museum although there are considerable challenges to accessibility that would have to be addressed.
To help address the Muskoka’s affordable housing crunch it was suggested that the existing Memorial Arena be torn down and replaced with eight freehold townhouses and a four-story multi-unit apartment with up to 50 units.
Council was highly supportive of the plan generally and nearly approved it but Mayor Graydon Smith suggested they wait before making any firm decision.
Coun. Don Smith agreed, saying the plan was a massive amount of information to digest and they should take their time before agreeing to the plan.
Council agreed and approval of the plan was postponed until the next general committee meeting.
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