Waterfront renaissance under way in downtown Collingwood - multimillion-dollar development injects mega wow factor
COLLINGWOOD WAS named after Admiral Collingwood, Lord
Nelson’s second in command at the battle of Trafalgar. By the time of its
incorporation in 1858, Collingwood had schools, churches, sidewalks and regular
steamship traffic to Chicago and all points of the upper Great Lakes.
STAND AT Collingwood Millennium Overlook Park at the
northern end of historic Collingwood Harbour and you’ll enjoy panoramas of both
Georgian Bay and the Niagara Escarpment to the west. Georgian Bay was named ‘La
Mer Douce’ by Champlain in 1615 on his first visit to the area. The Niagara
Escarpment has been declared a World Biosphere Reserve, an internationally
THE TOWN'S TOP 3 employers are: General and Marine Hospital, with 439 workers;
Pilkington Canada Ltd., 325; and the Town of Collingwood, 216. Overall, tourism
is Collingwood’s dominant industry.
Collingwood, home to the wildly popular annual Elvis
festival, is a fast-growing four-season resort town on the south shore of Georgian
Bay, the gateway to the Great Lakes.
Boasting a bustling downtown heritage district, gorgeous
waterfront with stunning views and a ski resort on its doorstep, this historic
shipbuilding town has been transformed into a premier tourist destination with
a growing population of active seniors.
Collingwood’s population grew 7.8 per
cent between 2001 and 2006, the last Census, and now stands at about 17,500.
Retail/residential project to transform resort town's industrial waterfront
At the heart of the Georgian Triangle between The Blue
Mountains and Wasaga Beach, Collingwood is undergoing a renaissance that brings
its past full circle. The multimillion-dollar Shipyards project, recently named
Best Large-scale Project by the Canadian Urban Institute, is transforming the
brownfields site that was home to the town’s shipbuilding industry for almost a
century into a sustainable residential/commercial community with access to both
the Georgian Bay waterfront and downtown Collingwood.
The project features a
public greenspace for local events, with an open-air amphitheatre, a wetland and
fish habitat and pedestrian and bike trails that connect to the Niagara
The Shipyards development site covers about 17 hectares of
downtown waterfront land. The industrial site, now cleaned up and ready for
development, was where ships were built and retrofitted. Operations also included a drydock,
machine shops and foundry and boiler shops. The site was abandoned in 1986,
when Collingwood Shipyards ceased operations.
Collingwood's shipbuilding, agriculture heritage preserved
The Collingwood Terminals still stand today as a symbol of
the twin engines of the town’s commerce in the early 1900’s — shipping and
agriculture. Grain service stopped in 1993, ending 64 years of operation for
the cement elevator and 123 years of grain trade in Collingwood.
now owned by the town, serve as the backdrop for Harbourlands Park, created in
2000 and featuring a series of beautifully landscaped walkways and gardens with
a history of the area prominently displayed on massive granite plinths.
The waterfront park is a great place to relax and watch
sailboats coming and going from the harbour. You can also catch a glimpse of
Nottawasaga Island, now home to hundreds of nesting migratory birds. Also known
as Lighthouse Island, it is home to one of the most historic lighthouses on the
Great Lakes. The imposing limestone structure, 86 feet tall, was built between
1855 and 1859.
You can soak in the town’s 150-year-old marine heritage at
the Collingwood Museum. The Side Launch mural, painted by John Hood and his
sister Alexandra Hood, depicts the practice of launching ships in Collingwood
and is one of the town’s most beloved historical murals.
Historic buildings now chic boutiques, bars
Collingwood’s downtown heritage district is filled with
modern boutiques, galleries and restaurants in century-old buildings. One of
the most impressive early 20th-century structures is the recently
restored Collingwood Federal Building. Constructed of marble in 1914, it
features a rotunda with a large stained glass dome, bearing the coats of arms
of the four levels of government, including the Town of Collingwood. The building
was inspired by the State Finance Building in Havana, Cuba.
Third Avenue is where many beautiful historic homes are
located, some now operating as a restaurant, ski academy and country inn.
You’ll find Armadale at No. 375, where a gala reception for the Governor
General was held in 1918. The majority of Collingwood’s heritage buildings date
from after 1881, when much of main street was destroyed by fire.
The heart of downtown Collingwood is Hurontario Street,
carved out of a swamp more than 150 years ago near the Pretty River. In 1858,
the year of the town’s incorporation, the newly created council passed the
first bylaw for the construction of sidewalks on Hurontario Street — referred
to as home to “wild beasts and snakes” — and Huron Street. Today,
Collingwood’s main street has been spiffed up with brickwork, giving downtown
an old-time charm.
Mix of housing means family-friendly prices
The preservation of Collingwood’s past has been known to
clash with modern-day development. For example, a residential/commercial
development planned as an anchor to the downtown was recently put on hold over
delays resulting from council’s decision to stick to its heritage planning
guidelines that limit the height of buildings in the core.
Council is also working to develop a sustainability plan so
that future residents also get to enjoy the town’s many assets.
Prices are still affordable in Collingwood. A two-bedroom
resale condo with water and mountain view and 1,050 square feet of space was
recently listed for $179,500. The top end of the condo market included a
2,800-square-foot four-bedroom luxury penthouse condo with stunning bay views
for $795,000. On the single-family home front, recent waterfront listings
ranged from $519,00 to $1.695 million.