The City of Orillia has changed quite a bit since it was incorporated as a village in 1867. The Huron and Iroquois people first set foot on the land more than 4,000 years ago, establishing sites for trading, fishing and hunting. During the 17th century, the area was home to the Coldwater Road, a prominent fur-trading route used by the Hurons, Ojibways, French and British.

Fast forward to today, and you’ll discover Orillia is growing faster than ever before. The latest census data shows that more than 31,000 people now call The Sunshine City home. With a $17 million waterfront revitalization project in the works and a loft-style condo development slated to begin construction, it’s easy to see why Orillia continues to attract investment and new residents. Here are 10 reasons why Orillia is the perfect place to put down roots.

1. Matchedash Lofts is bringing urban character to Ontario’s heartland.

Situated at the corner of Matchedash and Mississaga Street, this five-storey Oakleigh residence will feature loft-style live/work, garden and lakeview terrace units, as well as commercial and retail space. Prospective buyers are invited to choose from one bedroom, one bedroom plus den, two bedroom and two bedroom plus den condos, priced from $329,900. Matchedash Lofts is now 50 per cent sold, and construction will begin in September.

2. The revitalized waterfront will draw more people and activity to the core.

Orillia’s City Council has dedicated $17 million towards revamping the downtown waterfront. The project will focus on improving infrastructure, including roads, sewer systems and pipes, to allow for more condos, offices and businesses to be built. Work on the project is expected to begin later this year, and should be completed by 2022.

3. The Orillia Recreation Centre will feature three swimming pools, a double gymnasium and a fitness centre.

Rendering: MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects

For nearly 15 years, the City of Orillia kicked around the idea of building a much-needed recreation centre, and we’re happy to report that construction is finally underway. The $53 million project broke ground in September 2016, and crews are currently installing the swimming pool basins. The state-of-the-art facility will boast an aquatic centre, gymnasiums, multipurpose rooms, a walking/jogging track, preschool room, office space and fitness centre.

4. New and independent businesses are enriching Orillia’s downtown.

Hordes of new and independent businesses now line the streets of Orillia’s downtown. Grab a bite and a pint at Fionn MacCool’s, or pursue the selection of local handmade goods at Harold + Ferne. Tried-and-true favourites like Mariposa Market, The Bird House Nature Company and Long Way Home Decor are always worth checking out. The Champlain Hotel is re-opening this month as an Ascend Hotel, plus, the city’s first microbrewery, the Orillia Brewing Company, will begin construction this fall and is scheduled to open across the street from Matchedash Lofts by spring.

5. It’s located an hour from Toronto.

Photo: Doug Kerr/Flickr

As more and more would-be homebuyers are priced out of the Toronto market, attention is shifting towards smaller communities with opportunities for growth. Orillia is still within commuting distance of Toronto — a trip down Highway 400 typically takes around an hour.

6. There’s a vibrant arts and culture scene.

With scenery this beautiful, it’s no surprise that Orillia has inspired countless artists to create. Renowned artist Charles Pachter, an Officer of the Order of Canada, maintains a studio in Orillia, and there are a handful of interesting art galleries downtown. If museums are more your speed, there are plenty to choose from, including the Museum of Art & History, The Ontario Provincial Police Museum and the Stephen Leacock Museum. The Orillia Opera House puts on live theatre productions and concerts, and the city also plays host to 25 festivals per year.

7. Big city amenities abound.

Photo: Doug Kerr/Flickr

Today’s busy families need easy access to services and urban amenities. Fortunately, Orillia offers a brand-new Costco, public library, shopping centre, movie theatre and several public and private schools. The Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital recently underwent an $85 million expansion project, and is now part of the SickKids network. Lakehead University and Georgian College have campuses in Orillia, and the Ontario Provincial Police General Headquarters is also located here.

Casino Rama Resort sits on the shores of Lake Couchiching, and features gaming, restaurants, a spa and 5,000-seat theatre with regular concerts and comedy shows. Additionally, Hydro One is building a state-of-the-art Advanced Technology Hub in Orillia, which is expected to generate hundreds of jobs and bring $200 to $300-million in near-term economic impact.

8. Explore 29 kilometers of trails, plus 445 acres of parkland and waterfront.

Whether you prefer to walk, jog or cycle, Orillia is the perfect city for outdoor adventures. There are over 29 kilometers of trails that connect to parks and broader, regional networks. The paved Millennium Trail runs adjacent to the Lake Couchiching shoreline and is a favourite among cyclists in the area. Couchiching Beach Park offers a boardwalk, picnic areas, a playground, and of course, a sandy beach for swimmers.

9. Lake country is at your fingertips.

Photo: Ron Bulovs/Flickr

Forget the traffic-laden, three hour trek to Muskoka — it’s just a quick jaunt up Highway 11 from Orillia. The city’s picturesque downtown is situated on the shores of Lake Couchiching, which makes it easy to go for a morning stroll along the water or take the boat out after work. Lake Simcoe and the Trent-Severn Waterway are only minutes away, and are ideal destinations for swimming, kayaking, fishing and more.

10. There are plenty of opportunities for outdoor wintertime activities.

Photo: Alex Indigo/Flickr

The fun in Orillia doesn’t stop when summer ends. The city is in close proximity to Mount St. Louis Moonstone and Horseshoe Resort, which offer powdery trails for skiing and snowboarding. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and outdoor ice skating are also popular pastimes in Orillia.

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