Pictured (L to R): Gary Silverberg, Mark Cohen 

Début Waterfront Residences is a new, two-tower development featuring sleek interiors by Johnson Chou and bold architecture by Oleson Worland Architects and Scott Shields Architects. The project by Gary Silverberg offers the luxe condominium lifestyle with spacious suites, sought-after amenities and a coveted waterfront location.

But don’t expect to catch a glimpse of the CN Tower, because this expansive glass and concrete complex is located at 55 Dunlop Street West in Barrie. With two 33-storey towers and 272 units in the first phase, Début is the first high-rise condo in Barrie and Simcoe County, bringing a unique investment opportunity to the city.

Suburban housing markets across the GTA including Mississauga, Georgina, and Essa — located just south of Barrie — have seen significant growth and interest from homebuyers looking to move away from the congestion and high prices of the big city. Will Barrie experience a similar trend?

We caught up with Début Waterfront Residences developer, Gary Silverberg, and managing partner of The Condo Store Marketing Systems, Mark Cohen, to learn more about the project and find out why they see glimmers of a Barrie housing boom.


Livabl: Can you walk us through the genesis of the project?

Gary Silverberg: I spent about eight years going around North America, looking at places that had inequity or pent-up equity and potential for a lot of reward. It hasn’t been recognized yet, but all the planning, political and economic signs were indicating that Barrie was going to be a great opportunity. We were considering Brooklyn for a while, but we decided that Barrie actually had terrific potential.

L: Why did you choose Barrie as the location for Début?

GS: We recognized the value of Barrie’s proximity to Toronto and Muskoka. Situated between the two, residents would be close to all the amenities, attractions and the best four-season recreational opportunities in the region. We believed that people would recognize the value of this over time. Plus, the serene waterfront, the quality of life and the urban amenities were all there. It’s essentially a mini Toronto without the traffic.

Mark Cohen: I’ve been following the Barrie market for many years. I was active there 25 years ago, but more so in recent times, and I’ve seen huge volumes of new homes being sold. I think the proximity of Toronto to Barrie is often something that people forget, because I’ve been observing more and more movement from the northern parts of the GTA up to Barrie.


L: What do you think makes Barrie the perfect place to launch a project like Début?

MC: As someone who’s marketed some of the most significant communities in the city and across the province for 35 years, this was an opportunity to work on something that doesn’t come along very often. I believe Barrie is an area that has not been fully recognized yet and therefore not completely capitalized upon. We have an opportunity to create a new downtown contiguous to a waterfront, in the centre of a city that has an incredible future ahead of it.

L: How does the real estate market in Barrie compare to larger cities like Toronto?

MC: In the past, you would sell your house and have money left over after you sized down and bought a condo. That doesn’t necessarily hold true in Toronto anymore. It’s very hard to cash out in Toronto because new condos are now $1,000 to $2,000 a square foot and anywhere in between. People don’t sell their homes for $1,000 or $2,000 per square foot, so they trade down. In order to achieve and maintain a ‘nest egg,’ they either have to buy something smaller than they currently have or forget about banking a nest egg when they sell their home.

Buying a condo in Barrie means you can actually sell your Toronto home, park your profit and enjoy your life. At Début, we’ve got condos that start under $500,000 and we have condos that are over a million and a half dollars. We have something for everyone, but at the end of the day, depending on who you are, the opportunity largely exists to buy and to live here as if it were a suburb of Toronto and put money in your pocket, if you sold your Toronto home.


L: What makes Début a good option for investors?

MC: The prices are half that of similar condos in Toronto, yet the rents are about equal to those in the 416 area. You’re also buying at the beginning of a boom because this is the beginning of the revival of downtown Barrie.

With Début today, you’re at the beginning of its pricing cycle. I see nothing ever being offered at that price again, and you’ve got a very healthy, mature rental market in that particular location. In the last month or so, property values in downtown Barrie have appreciated immensely, 20 to 30 percent — that’s significant.

This is where the population is going to double in the next 10 years and we believe Début will appeal to Millennials, first-time buyers, outdoor enthusiasts, empty nesters and investors. It’s just a smart investment. A safe investment today, with huge potential for tomorrow.

L: What kind of impact will the current situation have from a real estate perspective in Barrie?

GS: People have developed lifestyles that require them to spend more time at home, and they’ve proven that they can work from home. What that means is that you can live in a place that you ordinarily might not have chosen because of the original need for proximity to work.

There’s also a sense of freedom that people are having in their minds because of the way they think differently from previous generations. They see the benefit of a more balanced life — not one that is driven by working 80 percent of the time with little time left for family or recreation.

But it’s not just for one reason or one demographic. Barrie can offer that opportunity for virtually any demographic — a dynamic lifestyle next to the waterfront with entertainment, amenities and four-season recreational options, steps from your door.


L: Tell us more about Début. Where will it be located and what sets it apart from other developments in the city?

GS: Barrie is an established city that has shown its metal over a number of years. The best part of downtown Barrie is that it’s on the water because the water here is part of downtown. It’s not bisected by a highway, but is very much a part of the neighbourhood.

Barrie also has a terrific selection of products and services, and because of this it caters to a lot of different people with different tastes.

MC: What sets Début apart is that the project will cover an entire city block in the downtown core of Barrie. We designed the project to be a central hub with new retail, proximity to public transportation, connections to community amenities like the Sandbox Centre, and of course, access to the waterfront.

We’re also right at the gateway to cottage country. So you not only have that urban lifestyle in downtown Barrie, but you’ll have access to all the great lifestyle options that are in high demand right now. Plus, there are numerous golf courses within 30 minutes of the city, the casino in Orillia, and several nearby ski hills like Horseshoe, Snow Valley and Mount Saint Louis.


L: What about the building itself?

GS: As far as the building itself is concerned, our concepts are innovative. Everything we’re doing has been very well thought out to maximize space and quality of life in well-appointed suites.

From an innovation standpoint, the suites have been designed with efficiency and space in mind. People also want outdoor space, so everyone is going to have a balcony with 87 percent of the suites having water views.

MC: Début is a place where people are going to live and play. The amenities include a lobby with soaring, 25-foot ceilings, spa rooms, a yoga studio, business centre and an infinity pool overlooking the water. There will also be retail wrapping eight sides of the two buildings with an arcade in the middle, which creates a natural segue to the neighbourhood. We really are creating a city within the city — in the best part of the city.

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