Park Place (Ontario)
|Location||Barrie, Ontario, Highway 400 exit 90|
|Developer||North American Acquisition Inc|
|No. of stores and services||42|
Park Place (formerly Molsons Park) is a shopping centre located in the south end of Barrie, Ontario, Canada. The land operated as a brewery from 1967-1999, and as a high-capacity outdoor concert venue from 1987-2005. As a music venue, Molsons Park saw acts like Rage Against the Machine, Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Neil Young, Nofx, and Oasis.
From 2002-2004, the abandoned brewery operated as the largest illegal marijuana grow-operation in Canadian history.
In 1967, the Formosa Spring Brewery reached its bottling capacity in its Formosa, Ontario location, and began looking to expand. The 597 acre farmland was annexed from Innisfil by the City of Barrie to establish the new brewery, still under the Formosa name. In 1974, Molson's purchased the land and brewery, creating a parkland, baseball diamond, and adding a drive-through beer store for cottagers driving on Highway 400.
Due to a change in inter-provincial alcohol production regulations, the Molsons plant was closed and abandoned in September 2000. In late November 1999 in a last-ditch effort to save their jobs, workers staged an occupation of the plant. Following an end to the occupation, the lands were thereafter put on the market for sale, subsequently purchased by a commercial land developer and renamed 'Park Place'.
In 1987, the Toronto-based Edgefest began looking for a new open-air venue to support large acts. After considering Downsview Park, Mosport International Raceway and Cayuga Speedway, as well as a farmer's field in Oakville, the organisers settled on Molsons Park, despite its 90 km [55 mi]) distance from Toronto. In an effort to motivate fans to drive to Barrie, the 1987 Edgefest sold tickets for $1.02.
With an attendance of 25,000 people, the 1987 Edgefest demonstrated Molsons Park as a venue for large Toronto-based festivals. Many Toronto-based festivals began to follow suit, from 1987 until its commercial redevelopment in 2005. Notable festivals include:
- 102.1 The Edge's Edgefest 1987-2003
- Lollapalooza 1992-1996
- CFNY Canada Day Festival, 1987-1990
- The Great Canadian Party, 1992
- Summersault 1998, 2000
- Vans Warped Tour 2000 - 2007
- Live 8 concert, Barrie July 2, 2005
On January 12, 2004, the former Molsons plant was found to be home to an illegal marijuana grow-op housing an estimated 30,000 marijuana plants with an estimated street value of $30 million; at the time, it was the largest marijuana grow-op bust in Canada's history.
Operating in secret for 2 years, the operation was undertaken by Robert DeRosa, brother of landowner Vince DeRosa, claiming to run two companies called Ontario Pallet and Barrie Fish. In addition to the Molsons plant, there was a building on Highway 11 in Oro-Medonte Township, and a third building in St. Catharines, Ontario.
During the undercover operation, Robert also described plans to ship cocaine from Colombia to Canada hidden inside fish. He was later tracked down and arrested in Cuba. Robert was sentenced to seven years in prison, and claimed his brother knew nothing of the marijuana operation. Robert's wife Bernice Laan, and 18-year-old son also faced charges. Charges were dropped against another man, Daniel Moore. Drago Dolic, also involved, was already serving 27 years in prison in Louisiana. 12 employees were also charged during the bust.
After sale of the plant, legal proceedings followed concerning Vince's rights to the money from the sale. Prosecutors alleged that a seizure of the property, along with Robert's home in Phelpston, Ontario was justified under organized crime laws. Vince eventually won rights to the $4 million in proceeds from the sale, in 2014.
On October 31, 2006 commercial real estate developers North American Acquisition Inc (NAA), a subsidiary of North American Development Group, LLC (NADG) won an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) appeal of a rezoning application that had been previously denied by the City of Barrie to rezone the Park Place lands from general industrial to business park zones, and general commercial or mixed employment.
The City of Barrie had opposed NAA's rezoning application on the basis that it would use a large portion of the City's scarce industrial lands, yet only contribute low-wage retail jobs to the local economy.
In 2002, the Park Place designs described a car-free, pedestrian-focused outdoor commercial centre hosting hotels, an IMAX cinema, and landscaping.
After the OMB appeal, development began instead with a box store concept, blamed by developer Terry Coughlin on the 2008 economic downturn: "We're not going to get those fashion-type stores we thought originally. A lot aren't doing too well and they’re working in outlet mode. They’re all going down to Cookstown. ... We're not going to become a fashion centre, even though it was a good idea in 2002 when we started."
The discrepancy between the plans and the development angered many citizens, including then-mayor Rob Hamilton who described the development as "another mall like all the other malls, all asphalt and cars and hard objects. There'll be no landscaping and none of this warm and fuzzy stuff that it was portrayed as being. Not even close."
- http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/marijuana/grow_operations.html CBC News Online - March 4, 2005 - INDEPTH: MARIJUANA - Marijuana grow-ops - Barnum was involved in the biggest bust of a marijuana grow-op in Canadian history on Jan. 12, 2004. Police seized 30,000 plants that would have produced marijuana worth $30 million on the streets. The operation was hidden inside a shutdown Molson brewery in Barrie, Ont.
- http://www.cbc.ca/news/story/1999/11/22/sitin991122.html CBC News, November 22, 1999 - Sit-in at Molson plant in Barrie continues
- LIVE 8 Concerts – Live 8
- Former weed kingpin rolls out guilty plea
- Ten years after one of Canada’s largest grow-op bust, legal troubles persist
- A bizarre grow-op odyssey comes to an end
- http://www.parkplacebarrie.com/PDF/OMBD.pdf Ontario Municipal Board Order No.: 3067
- The Barrie Real Estate Blog: :: Park Place in Barrie - The 200 Acre Lifestyle Centre hoping to begin construction this summer ::
- A look at how the initial plan for Park Place in Barrie changed
- North end of Park Place taking shape in Barrie