Monday, June 21, 2010

First Street Reconstruction - The End is in Sight!

After several weeks of lane closures, residents and visitors alike will soon be able to enjoy the benefits that will be provided via the reconstruction of First Street.  The new format will include a much needed centre, left hand turn lane, a feature that has desperately been needed for years.  Commencing today (Monday June 21st) final paving is to begin on what has been a lengthy construction process that has often tested the patience of drivers and pedestrians alike. 
Westbound lanes, those on the north side of First Street will start to receive their final coat of asphalt starting tonight at 7:00pm continuing through to 6:00am tomorrow morning.  The schedule for this work is as follows:

Intersection of High and First Streets 7:00 to 9:30pm
High to Elm Streets 9:00 to 10:20pm
Elm to Spruce Streets  9:50 to 11;10pm
Spruce to Hickory Streets  10:40 to Midnight
Hickory to Walnut Streets  11:30 to 12:50pm
Walnut to Cedar Streets  12:20 to 1:40am
Cedar to Oak Streets  1:10 to 2:30am
Oak to Birch Street  2:00 to 3:20am
Birch to Beech Streets  2:50 to 4:10am
Beech to Maple Streets  3:40 to 5:00am
Maple to Pine  4:30 to 6:00am

The second phase of this final paving will begin tomorrow evening (Tuesday June 22nd) with working being done on the eastbound lanes or the south side of First Street. As with tonight, work will start at the far west end of First proceeding east to Pine Street.  The construction schedule for this segment of the work is the same as above.  During these time slots access to the respective side streets will be closed for the laying and compacting of the asphalt as well as to provide a safe working environment for the construction crew and their equipment.

Overall, construction for the first Street project is reported as being ahead of schedule.  Between the work in this area, the reconstruction of Huronatrio Street and other projects around town it seems at times that we are in a war zone and I can only imagine what visitors to the area must think.  The curb lanes on First Street have been effectively closed for a least two months now and while there were some unfinished sections of curbing plus some raised or exposed manholes, these lanes have for the most part been absent of workers during this time.  Perhaps with the right measures being taken, those lanes lanes could and should have been reopened at least on weekends.
Nonetheless, the finish line is in sight and none too soon.  In less than two weeks school will be out and the summer holiday season will be upon us bringing with it visitors which we hope with have a lasting and favourable impression of our revitalized downtown core and improved First Street (Highway 26) corridor.  We may not have had the same investment into our Town that Huntsville has had for the G8 Summit, but in addition to some noteworthy infrastructure improvements, at least we have a "real" lake.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Real estate sales activity throughout the Georgian Triangle in 2010 continues to show dramatically improved results over the same period last year driven largely to a degree by Canada’s overall economic recovery resulting in improved consumer confidence, combined with continued low mortgage rates and a great selection of listed properties to choose from.
Unit sales for the first five months of 2010 as reported through the MLS® system of the Georgian Triangle Real Estate Board are up 40% from the same period last year. Sales revenue has increased more dramatically with year-to-date sales totaling $219.4 million up 57% from the $139.8 million worth of properties sold in the first five months of 2009. This increase in sales revenue is being driven by significantly increased sales in the upper price ranges with unit sales in the $500,000 to $800,000 price range up 88% (49 versus 26) 2010 compared to 2009. Further, year-to-date sales above $1 million total 9 to the end of May versus 5 in the same period last year. During the month of March, two MLS® residential sales were recorded over $2 million whereas in the history of the local MLS® system there had only been two single family homes sold over $2 million ever.

Many people I meet and talk with comment on the seemingly large number of properties currently listed for sale. Year-to-date, a total of 2,768 new MLS® listings have come onto the market, up 9% from the 2,540 new MLS® listings recorded in the first five months of 2009. It is a fact, Buyers do have lots of choices and they are buying as is evidenced by the 40% increase in unit sales to the end of May. When choices are limited, my experience is that Buyers tend to stand pat waiting for a greater selection of properties to become available before they commit to buy. The number of expired listings May year-to-date have decreased from last year and they now stand at 1,166 properties, down 8% from the same period last year. Many Sellers, unrealistic in their asking prices have decided to remove their properties from the market hoping for a change in fortune at some future point in time.

Breaking the year-to-date unit sales activity down into the various local markets, results in order of the largest year-to-date gains is as follows: Grey Highlands up 95%, Municipality of Meaford up 69%, Clearview Township up 52%, the Blue Mountains up 46%, Collingwood up 28% and lastly Wasaga Beach has increased 16%. As you can see, sales results vary wildly from one municipality to another, please contact me for a no obligation detailed analysis of your particular property.

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) has lowered their 2010 forecast for MLS® home sales nationwide largely the result of weaker home sales in the first five months of the year in British Columbia. BC and Ontario weight heavily in CREA’s annual forecasts and even minor slippage in either of these provinces can significantly impact the overall market numbers. Changes in mortgage regulations are expected to have a marginal affect overall and perhaps even less so here locally. Many Buyer clients I regularly deal with are merely writing a cheque hence mortgage rates are a moot point. Sales across Ontario are predicted to increase by 10% in 2010, my belief is that we will see a significantly higher sales increase here in the Georgian Triangle.
Pricing across our area as well as in Canada overall remains relatively stable. The national average home price now stands at $325,400, locally were are just slightly below that at $312,529 to the end of May up 12% from one year ago. As I have stated in prior postings, the average residential price cannot be used to measure the pricing appreciation or depreciation. Increased or decreased sales activity at different price points can have a significant impact on the overall average price as we have seen here locally, given the aforementioned sales increases above $500,000. Again, for a detailed analysis of pricing for your property please feel free to contact me.

Overall, the future looks like we will be seeing more balanced market conditions for which everyone will benefit. Canada’s economy remains strong and with a history of solid mortgage lending and prudent borrowing by Canadian consumers it would appear that we will avoid the massive realignment of the housing market being experienced in the U.S.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Enough to Drive You to Drink

The debate regarding restaurant patios on Hurontario Street continues to rage on incessantly and it would appear that the people most affected by the potential change in the bylaw are largely being ignored. 
  By all reports the restaurant owners themselves are against it both for practical as well as financial reasons. From the numerous letters being written to the local papers, restaurant patrons also appear to be every bit as focused on wishing to see the patios remain where common sense would dictate, up against the respective restaurant building(s) itself.
  It doesn't take a lot of thought to envision the impracticality of having patios moved away from the restaurant out to the curb.  Wait staff having to dodge pedestrian traffic while manipulating trays of food hot or otherwise is at the very least inconvenient but more importantly represents a very real threat for reduced personal safety and increased liability.  From an aesthetics standpoint, sitting at a patio curbside places you amidst vehicles coming and going, exposes you to increased traffic noise from the street and places you squarely in the middle of a great deal of pedestrian commotion, hardly creating an intimate dining experience. For obvious reasons, Collingwood's own Fire Chief is against the concept.  In contrast I have not heard one reason to support this move that is anywhere as compelling as the reasons against.
This saga has gone on far too long and consumed far too much time of Council and Town staff not to mention legal expenses (apparently $11,000 to date) and consulting costs.  It is the perfect example of a person or group majoring in "minor" things.  What I find absolutely incomprehensiblele however is the fact that for months now, this subject has raged on with decisions being made without the most important information of all being brought to the table, that being what are the requirements and obligations for restaurant patios under Ontario's Alcohol and Gamming Commission?  (AGCO). If I were a member of Council, making an informed decision with respect to this matter, it would be absolutely impossible for me to do so without this crucial information before us.  The very decision itself might very well be made by the stipulations of the AGCO, Provincial legislation that will decidely take precedence over a municipal bylaw no matter how well thought out. 
  It is very unsettling to think about what other matters, bylaws and expenditures etc. are being debated and voted on around the Council table without all the relevant facts, information and legal information being known.  After months of debate, dialogue and anguish amongst downtown restauranteurs, Council have now deferred dealing with the existing bylaw until the governing legislation from the AGCO is brought forth June 14th.  Gee, what a refreshing idea!  It's about time some logic came to the forefront of this debate in terms of knowing in detail what the Province's legislation stipulates regarding patios and the serving of alcoholic beverages.
My predictiction is we will see one of two outcomes.  Patios will remain where they should be up against their respective building(s) or if Council proceeds to move forth against the wishes of the very people being affected we will see patios vanish off Hurontario Street altogether.  Let us know what you think in our current poll.

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