Muskoka To-DAILY

Bruce Evans visionary, Muskoka mover, shaker

By Mark Clairmont / MuskokaTODAILY

Bruce Evans was best known to most people in Muskoka as a road builder – the former owner of Fowler Construction for many years until a few years ago.

But to many in the community he was much more than that.

Bruce Evans gave the Muskoka Wharf the thumbs up after it was built in 2006.

Bruce Evans gave the Muskoka Wharf the thumbs up after it was built in 2006.

A shrewd businessman for sure (ask any politician); a big developer (think Grandview Resort, world-class golf courses and hundreds of Evanco homes and condos), and patron of the arts (community theatre, concert bands and Children’s Foundation of Muskoka were among his many favourite charities).

A definite mover and shaker within Muskoka’s business and political communities from Georgian Bay to Dorset, who gave a lot and liked to get a lot in return by winning and getting his own way – which he mostly, but not always did.

But behind that always pleasant professional façade – and only occasional flash of gruff commercial exterior – beat the heart of a genuinely nice guy.

A man with a protestant work ethic – “he understood hard work” – who just wanted to work hard and build a good life for his family, community and country.

Evans is being remembered as a forward-thinking promoter and supporter of his adopted home.

He died Feb 3 at the Algonquin Grace Hospice in Huntsville after a battle with cancer. He was 82.

At a memorial for him Feb. 13 at a packed Algonquin Theatre in Huntsville, MP Tony Clement remembered Evans as being “relentless about causes.”

“‘Just relax, I’ll take care of it …’” Clement recalled Evans saying on many occasions in negotiating government deals whether it was a road or the MuskokaWharf.

“He was a community leader, who cared and helped quietly behind the scenes. Not flashy, but he could be.

“He liked to make things happen,” said Clement who wanted to “celebrate a good man who improved life here.

“We have Bruce Evans to thank for making Muskoka a better place.”

Lifelong friend Ted George said at 6-foot-2 and with “sparkle in his eye,” a young Bruce Evans was formidable character even as he entered the University of Toronto to study phys-ed in 1951.

An athlete who liked to play football, ski and swim at the family’s homes and cottage in Muskoka, he was also “head strong” and “not always patient.”

He worked hard with his two brothers and father in a landscaping and construction business around Toronto for about 10 years. But “he was never really content,” and so he set out on his own.

And he was good. He had a lot of energy (“he’d eat fast” – “because we have to go”) and his various companies got jobs building parts of Ontario Place, York University, Expo 67, Canada’s Wonderland and some of the façades at Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida.

Said George: “I worked with him for 34 years and saw him solve problems nobody thought they or he could.”

He was so damned determined – and optimistic.

George said when Glen Coates announced he was going to sell Fowler’s Construction – Evans had the deal done in two weeks.

Evans was also a strong and generous family.

His son Gregg recalled his father secretly sodding a store owner’s front yard years later after the man had give a young barefoot Evans shoes when he walked into Port Sydney from the family’s farm north of the village.

Daughter Cheryl Cooper said her father was a god. He looked like Tarzan in a bathing suit and her friends thought “he was a hunk.”

He would come home at the end of a long day and make time for his family and encourage her writing and Gregg’s acting careers.

Marie Moreland met her future husband as a teen and they were high school sweethearts after they met in band class (he played trumpet) and he pursued her relentlessly.

She got pregnant on their honeymoon and he got sick – even as they went about looking a possible job opportunity on their first foray into married life.

She said her husband of 60 years – they celebrated their diamond anniversary Dec. 22 – was always optimistic.

“He’d jump out of bed happy.”

But he was a little straight-laced and pretty buckled-down, always dressing and voting conservatively.

Marie said he never cared much for coloured or patterned clothes. But one Christmas when she threw caution to the wind and bought him a lime green sweater, he thanked her and never wore it.

“Until, one day, he came downstairs wearing it – and wore it every day straight for two weeks.”

Evans was also a bigger supporter of his wife’s musical pursuits. She plays clarinet in the Gravenhurst Bifocals band the Muskoka Concert Band. And Bruce never missed one of her concerts – whether at the Gravenhurst Seniors Centre, the Barge or at an outdoor concert venue in Bracebridge or Huntsville.

Evans is survived by his wife Marie, daughters Linda Evans, Cheryl (Randy) Cooper, Tanya (Gerard) Prada, and sons Gregg and Richard (Jennifer); and by 13 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. And by his sister Jean McDuff, brother Gordon and the late Robert Evans.

* * *

In June 2006 when the Muskoka Wharf opened MuskokaTODAY publisher Mark Clairmont sat down with Evans for a leisurely lunch at Kirrie Glen Golf Course on the outskirts of Bracebridge not far from his then Lake Muskoka home, and spoke to him about his life and the huge multi-million Muskoka Wharf project that was about to open.

Evans invested tens of millions of dollars into the project in new condos, the Marriott Hotel, a dozen retail buildings the Boston Pizza franchise he bought and steakhouse he opened next to it.

After doing several significant builds in Huntsville and Bracebridge, Evans turned his hands and talents to Gravenhurst – even moving his business office operations to the Wharf for a short time after it opened.

It was a very candid interview that one Bracebridge businessman said captured Evans perfectly: “That’s Bruce, alright.”

The following is that interview:

* * *

Bruce Evans and Steve Moorhead are delighted -

and relieved – to see the opening

of the MuskokaWharf.

The developer and the designer of the private-sector components of the “$170 million” project

says it’s a “win-win” situation for everyone, he told MuskokaTODAY.

“I’m really happy,” says Evans.

“I feel it’ll be a success.

“It’s going to be good for the Town.

“And we think it’s good for the whole area.”

Moorhead agrees: “It feels good. It’s remarkable what we’ve accomplished. A lot of other people would have run away.”

“When the Town decided to clean up the Bay (in the late ’70s), that was a wonderful thing,” said Evans. “It set the stage to do something significant.”

A number of citizens and Town councils have been involved, dating back to when Hugh Bishop was mayor; and then by successive mayors – Cecil Schell, Al Sander, Gord Adams, Don Holstock, Bob Betts who really got it going in his two terms and now by John Klinck in his two terms – and their councillors, Town staffs. Many other seasonal residents, Muskoka neighbours and people across the province and not just in Canada but abroad assisted, especially with the restoration of the Segwun as catalyst.

The Segwun, the last of the original Muskoka Fleet, which stopped sailing in 1958, had been a Town museum moored at the FederalWharf, where it operates today. The fleet’s flagship, the mighty and majestic Sagamo, burnt up in a 1969 grease fire in the floating home/restaurant.

The Segwun museum was rarely open much after that.

“A lot of people have been involved,” said Evans, too many to mention, he cautions.

Evans says a lot can also be traced to Glen Coates, the former owner of Fowlers. He sold the paving company to Evans in 1970.

Coates, the father of Bracebridge councillor Don Coates, was president of the Ontario Road Builders’ Association. He got them on board with a $100,000 donation toward the restoration and relaunching of the Segwun in 1981. Then prime minister Pierre Trudeau christened her with a bottle of champagne to great citizenry fanfare.

But Russ Brown, who began managing the Segwun’s rebirth in 1981, was a prime mover. He wanted an econo hotel to entice the bus trade into making the Segwun an overnight port of call. But little happened for more than a decade, as the Segwun steamed ahead growing relatively marginally undeterred.

A couple of restaurants were attempted in the early ’90s, but never got off the drawing board, for various reasons – mostly financial. Eventually, in the late 1990s, Matt Tomljenovic, one of the Town’s “business ambassadors,” suggested the Town talk to Evans.

Evans and Moorhead have a “huge history” dating back to when they worked on Expo 67 in Montreal, said Evans.

“We’re very good friends,” says Evans.

“Steve had been involved years ago with some of the other (Bay restaurant) interests,” as a designer, said Evans.

“Steve and I were partners. We put Forrec together, but eventually that didn’t work. You needed separate entities to develop and design (and build the facades for customers like they had with Disneyland in Florida).

“Steve’s a neat guy. A world-class designer, who has worked all over the world, and continues to do so today. (Forrec) is the No. 1 theme park, recreational and leisure design company in the world.”

Evans was a developer (with his brothers), building golf courses and landscaping projects, including air forces across the country. And some employees were from Muskoka, where Evans had a cottage.

“We used a lot of heavy equipment,” so it was a natural extension to mix the building and paving companies.

And, while Evans continues to own Fowlers, which employs up to 500 in the summer, he says it is run by a “very capable and professional management team.”

Evans’ “input” is in corporate “strategy.”

Most of his work is in the Evanco development side of the business – the golf courses, projects like the Wharf and real estate development, he shares with his son, Greg.

In the late ’80s, Evans companies employed 1,000. Today, Evanco alone has more than 100 working for it.

Evans says Evanco doesn’t contract out all its work to Fowlers. It just looks that way.

“Not all of it! We use contractors, too. We use Fowler for what they’re good at, paving and stuff like that.”

- – -

About eight years ago (1998), the Town of Gravenhurst

asked Evans and Moorhead to come up with a “concept”

for the Gravenhurst Bay.

“The steamship wanted more activity,” said Evans. “To create an attraction that fit with the Muskoka theme. Something people would come to visit, spend time at and enjoy and make a bigger experience of the ships.”

Evans and Moorhead think they’ve done it.

“There’s (going to be) a place to stay, a place to do a bit of shopping, a few places to eat,” says Evans.

“We were familiar with the history.”

Evans lives on Lake Muskoka, near Beaumeris; Moorhead is on Lake Roseau.

“We didn’t want the Town to come up with any money for the vision and plan. We said ‘if it makes sense, we will work with you and build it out.”

And they did their due diligence.

“We came up with a concept they liked – and we liked – and thought it would work. And so we went to work on it,” said Evans.

“The Bay was very active years ago. So what would make sense today, considering there was an old factory (Silvaplex) and boat houses. It wasn’t attractive, it was ugly. Some people talk about pristine things being destroyed – there wasn’t anything pristine about it.

“It was a matter of looking at it – and can we do something, considering the environmental problems – stuff dumped there for years. It wasn’t really contaminated, but logs and junk – sawdust. It was a swampy area. Difficult to build on. All the building conditions were complicated. We dealt with it – with new types of piles and things.”

Evans says they couldn’t have done it years ago.

“It had to be attractive. We put in some housing to make it work. Make sure. The biggest thing is to come up with a design that would work in the summertime. It’s easy then.

“You have to come up with something that will work to some level in the shoulder seasons. It’s got to work year-round – or nobody wants to be there.”

There were, of course, major alterations to the original plan, including moving the hotel from today’s south side soccer/event field, across Hwy. 169 to the centre of the property; and finally to its future location in the northwest corner by the original Wharf.

And, then there was the “famous” public meeting, when the whole deal almost collapsed due to citizen pressure over the threat of “big box” stores at the Bay (the second of three major plans).

A livid Evans almost walked away that night.

But he hung in, and persevered under a public cloud.

What resulted was a switch to 126 condominiums, which he says he always wanted; but the Town wanted more retail. Thus today’s third plan.

“That meant we needed a lot of infrastructure,” Evans said. “You had to make it enough of attraction that people will come. The big advantage was there was a history. The steamship, the lumbering and the boats. That’s what Steve has done.

“The Town had a pretty good definition of where the Wharf would be. The area was marked out well and it was just a matter of acquiring Silvaplex.

“Once those boundaries have been established, it can’t be enlarged. You needed more area to make it work.

“There are three pods or concentrations – over by the steamships; the restaurants partway across; and the hotel and interpretive centre. You join all that together with the boardwalk, so that someone who comes to visit the boats. You can walk through the whole thing and there’s something to see in the different areas (nodes). “Walk over for a coffee, stroll along for dinner. So people can stay over night or have a longer stay,” says Evans.

“There aren’t too many (developments) like this,”

across North America.

“Being in Gravenhurst is so unique. You couldn’t find another place to do that in Muskoka. Because of its location.

“It should be one of a kind. You’ve got MuskokaLake and it’s close to Toronto.”

Evans admits: “There’s all kinds of risk, because there’s not a lot of history to dictate. There’s no precedent (for this type of waterfront 3-P public/private partnership).”

“Why it became a public project together is because HISSO (Segwun’s Historical Steamship Society) wanted to build a museum.

“It needed a big boost to get the infrastructure in place. That’s why it needed government. The government only funds infrastructure, nothing else. It needed a good shot. And to do that, the Town managed to do that by getting grants (for studies, soil tests etc.) to get it started.

“But it got less and less. The total money spent from government is not the $20 million (originally expected). It’s around $16.1 million,” said Evans.

“But the money being spent on that site is more than $170 million (when everything is finally fully fit-out).

“So, the private end of it became much bigger than we ever intended. You just had to work through it.

“It’s obvious there’s a lot of public stuff down there.

The private sector building footprints which Evans and his partners bought for $12 a square foot, are just 5 per cent of the total 70 acres, which includes parking lots, green space and walking areas.

“If you want to have that, you have to get the services down there (and then farther out to West Gravenhurst). “That’s what it’s really about.”

 - – -

Could you have done it alone,

bought the whole park and developed it?

“No, I don’t think it would ever have happened. We could have bought Silvaplex,” says Evans, rather than the Town paying more than $2.5 million to acquire the land where the three 43-unit condo towers will be. Unless there is a plan that makes economic sense,” for the Town and the taxpayers and everyone else. “You got to put in a plan that makes sense for everybody – and if it works out….”

“I don’t know of any burden of debt that we’ve done that had more risk,” he says. “There’s no history of this sort of thing. We’re still continuing to take a huge risk.”

“At one time we were supposed to buy all the land and we were going to get it for more modest numbers. But then because they needed more (money), we agreed to pay more for everything.”

 - – -

What about consultants’ predictions of 500,000 visitors?

“We don’t trust consultants, never could. They don’t pay the bills. If it doesn’t work, it’s your problem. You get the most information you can and hope it’s going to work.

“You’ve got to make sure you’ve got something there that will bring them back there.”

- – - 

There are similar projects that seem to work, don’t they?

“Oh, yeah, they can go.

“So why would we have done it?” asks Evans. “We have complete confidence in the product that we can produce and this should work. But there are no guarantees.

“It can be affected by so many things, the economy – all of a sudden we have a huge downturn (or a rainy weekend or a season-long construction delay due to a last-second environmental objection that was ultimately dismissed).

“There’s competition. You know the InterWest people have built huge projects (in Collingwood, Quebec and B.C.) and we’ve worked with them. So we’ve seen some of that. Those are similar projects. They’re doing OK. They’re bigger scale. They’re a public company, for profit.

“This is not a public company. It’s a joint venture with the Town. This is part of a plan of the province, of federal government – business and public partnerships.”

Evans says there are lots of other 3-P partnerships, “not just like that up here.”

Toronto has them, and “places where municipalities call for a sports centre or something. Those are private-public involvement” with some business and retail components.

 - – -

What about the sale of the footprints to you for $12 per square foot,

and claims you’re selling them for $70-$90?

Evans says he had to put foundations in for buyers first, which was more expensive given soil conditions. By the time he added the cost of buying the land and putting in a foundation, he says he lost money on some footprint sales.

 - – -

Tell us about the upper level government’s involvement.

About our former Conservative MPP and premier Ernie Eves.

Do you still see him around?

“Oh, yeah. He’s not too active anymore (since retiring from politics). He’s still a friend. I see him around a bit. But he helped with the infrastructure. Same as Andy Mitchell (former Liberal MP and cabinet minister) with Northern Development and Mines.”

Isn’t that what politicians are supposed to do? To help facilitate projects like this, because they understand the value of tourism and value of these projects to the riding?

“It’s hard for the public to understand,” said Evans.

“Something like the docks (by the hotel). They were always talked about. The Town was going to get enough infrastructure money to build them.

“The truth is, when the (new Liberal government) grants got cut back, they didn’t have enough money to build them. But it was always part of the project. So, here we are, not only envisioning it – we’re showing it on our plans. That this is part of the project. So were obligated to make that happen. So then the Town comes along, and says they can’t do it. There’s no money!

“I’m not mad. “That’s just part of managing – managing money and managing the project. So, they couldn’t do it.

“What we’ve put forth is the methodology to get it done. I’d love the Town to have done it. I don’t want to own half the boat slips and go sell them to make a profit.”

 - – -

What about the government cutbacks in the project?

“Governments have their problems, too.”

 - – -

Well, how about the Town using hydro sale profits?

Spend $1.5 million to build 75 slips and sell them at $50,000 each

and make $3.75 million?

“They could never do that,” said Evans. “No, no, no!

“They might sell at $30- $35,000. If you figure the math. There’s no big profit in it. There’s no profit in it, because you have to give (the Town) the first 26 slips” in exchange for the sale of the water lots

“Look at it this way, the Town paid $1 a foot for the water lot to the Ministry of Natural Resources. That’s peanuts. What’s the Town getting out of it?”

Twenty-six boat slips they can sell for up to $50,000 or lease at the going lake rate of $1,000 season.

“And no risk to build it, no money to put in. No anything. That’s pretty good,” says Evans.

“Hopefully we’ll make a buck. But we aren’t doing it to make money. We’re doing it because we were so open, when we sold our condominiums and we sold our people on our hotel, we said there was going to be a marina. That would be a public/private marina, as opposed to a public. So we had a commitment. We’re left in an odd spot.

“So we had to figure a method of doing this.

“I wish someone else would do it. I’ve got lots of other things to do. It’s going to cost $1.5 million to build it, at least, maybe more. And then hand a third of it over to the Town, who paid a pittance for it. And we made it possible for them to buy the (water lot).

And I’m just telling you, on the boat slips, we didn’t want to do them. We found we had to.”

Evans says for the Town to sell off some of the inner bay docks would be impractical.

“The design is there. You’d be surprised how many will be used when the summer rolls around – not every day, but there will be times when they’re filled up.”

- – -

“There’s a payback in Muskoka,” says Evans.

“It’s a great place. That’s our thinking. That’s pretty risky.

“You never want to tell your banker that,” he jokes.

“Whenever we had criticism, I said, well: ‘If you guys can do the same thing, anyone want to put any money here, we’re looking for a partner. “We could never find anyone. Even to this day, we stand alone.”

 - – -

Why is that? Are you more visionary than anyone else?

“It’s the business we’ve been in. So we kind of understand it, as an investor. But it’s high risk. The reason it’s high risk – it’s like running a hotel in Muskoka. What do you do in the wintertime? What do you do in the spring? It’s pretty tough. There’s some risk. Borrowing money to do things in Muskoka is difficult, because it’s a shorter season. Because it’s expensive.”

Evans remains encouraged, despite all the obstacles.

“The whole package of (Peter) Freed (MuskokaBay golf course and housing) and ourselves, I think the Town’s got it pretty good. It should be a win-win situation – absolutely. That’s what the Town understands, I think. It’s going to be good for the Town.”

He says: “We looked at doing something kind of neat. It’s close to home, close to where we live and so that’s what made us do it in the first place. We knew it was a big risk – or I knew it was a big risk.”

- – - 

So, you’re not dissatisfied.

Will it be a success or will it take five years

to find out?

“Oh, no! I have a sense that it will be successful. We’re confident now.”

 - – -

And what about taxpayers who keep footing public bills

and are looking for returns on their investment – soon?

“There are a lot of naysayers,” laments Evans, a self-confessed positive thinker. “A lot of people say negative things. But everything’s getting more and more expensive. The building of houses has become more awkward.”

Evans knows there are housing alternatives in town.

 - – -

There’s a half dozen townhomes across Hwy. 169 from the Wharf (six more there soon to come) in the $300,000 or better range. That same company has plans for 70 apartments priced well under a $1,000 a month on First Street, next to the Seniors’ Centre. Throw in PineRidge phase 2; and Freed, who has a couple hundred single-detached and townhomes proposed for its Muldrew Lake golf course (opening July 1), and you have a lot of competition for the second and third of Evans’ three new condo towers.

“They do it at their own peril, (investment-wise),” says Evans. “It’s a risky business,” he stresses, once more.

“Building right now has gotten more expensive. But it can all fall apart, too.

“The risk, that is, but, it’ll all go down.”

- – - 

So, the bottom line is, you’re happy?

“Oh yeah, I’m really happy. I think – if everything works. I feel it’ll be a success. And we think it’s good for the whole area.”

Did you ever second-guess yourself? Would you engage in it again, knowing what you know now? Is that difficult or fair to say? Or would you do it differently?

“Well, every business is pretty complicated. Developers have gone through the whole process, to get approvals and all that and working through everything.

“It’s costly and very, very expensive.”

But there are other people who do this. Would you encourage others to do it?

“We are continuing to do it.”

 So, you’re not afraid to continue on? Is this going to be your last major kick at the can? Or do you envision doing something like this before you retire fully in a decade or so? Anything more on the books?

“We’re doing more (something similar in Keswick). We’ve got a company that’s fit to run without me. So, (son) Greg and his people – he’s got some pretty good people who do all this, I don’t do it all myself – will continue all this in the future.”

“(Evanco) is a force that will continue to do residential and different types of building and construction, golf courses. We’ve got a company that will continue on for the next 20 years. We’ve got projects that are long term, 10 and 15 years.”

At 74 last month, Evans says he’s trying to ease up.

“I want to slow down,” he says.

But not before he the Wharf is complete and well on its way to success.

“I love people,” says Evans, who doesn’t like the limelight. “I like to stay quiet.”

- – -

“The main thing about all this, is that the Gravenhurst Bay, with some far-sighted thinking on the part of the councils, they decided to clean it up. And the concept we’ve put on it and working with them and in conjunction with them, I believe is a very good one. And it will really be for the benefit of the Town of Gravenhurst big time. Particularly for in the future. Look at taxes you’ll get.

“For the most part, we don’t own, we sell the lands. We don’t want to own all the retail. We’re not trying to do that. That’s just part of the process. Most retailers, we find, don’t have any money to buy buildings. We need to build for them and help them to get in there. Hopefully, some will invest in them down the road.”

- – -

Why the two-storey?

“The space up above never really pays too well. But what we’re trying to do is have some of that available in order to attract some professional people, just to make more traffic down there. No you can’t live there. It’s strictly so you can work there. And that means there is a little traffic for the restaurants and the coffee shops.

“And when you’re doing the building, it would look all funny if you had all one level. You’ve got to have variation to make it an exciting atmosphere.”

 And why the mix of condos and commerce? Is it because city cores are losing populations to the suburbs?

“That’s exactly why we put residential in there. There’s a limited amount. What’s great about it is that there can never be any more buildings go in. We’ve set the footprints for the building. You can’t fill in the spaces. That’s all there is (19 buildings).”

Why is the Lions Pavilion so crowded?

“It’s one of those questions. You either have it so there’s enough infrastructure that people feel comfortable not standing out in the middle of a field, with a building here and a building there. There’s a happy medium. That’s a concentration, by the public (square) plaza,” in front of the Lions Pavilion, where two more buildings are to go up.

- – -

And the hotel? Evans calls for a fall start. Moorhead says a little longer. But it should be open by 2008.

Will it be fractional? “No – we’ll own the hotel,” says Evans. “Then, some day, we’ll sell it.

“Fractional ownership? Who knows how well it works. There’s too much of it around right now.

“So, in order to make it happen, we pretty well have to go out and build it ourselves. You’ve got to do it and show people. And that we’re trying to do.”

With Boston Pizza, Evans put his money where his mouth was, buying the franchise to jump-start the retail components. It encouraged others to invest after it opened Thanksgiving last year. He says it cost him $3 million.

And on parking …?

He says people can park anywhere they like in the park, even Farmers’ Market people in front of Boston Pizza on Wednesday mornings. It’s like the main street, he admits.

“You can’t restrict the people,” he says. But “it’s kind of a little tough on business if everyone shows up and you can’t even find a place to park.

“But it’s going to be difficult no matter how well you design it. To have the right number for every occasion. You know the boat show comes in, how do you do it?

“Parking, there are a lot of parking spaces. For the most part there’ll be all kinds of them (803). But on special events you may be a little pressed, like the boat show. And Wednesdays, when you’ve got a big show. But, they’ll find places. That whole sports field is designed to park cars.”

 - – -

But why the delay in the hotel?

“It’s the planning process. You have to get the drawing approvals. You have to do things the way the hotel people (Marriott chain) want it. It all takes time. It was always planned this year sometime. It’ll be 104 rooms. There will be a swimming pool, exercise centre, some smaller meeting rooms. It is a Residence Inn – a Marriott. It’s better than a Sleep-In. (But) it’s not Taboo.

“What it is, is a special market. Every one of the rooms – either the room or a studio or a two-bedroom unit – everyone of them has a small kitchen facility and a pullout bed. So you can take a family and you’ve got more room and put four people in it and rent it for a night.

“It’s a great place for people who want to come and spend a day or two, and they don’t have to eat in all the restaurants. It can be economical. And for people who want a longer stay, they’ve got their own kitchen.

“They’re great spots. It’s a great concept. And for the people staying longer-term, people want to come and take a week’s holiday there if they want. You can put six kids into a studio. You’re in the centre of an attraction.”

 - – -

Is it like a hotel in Orlando at Disney World?

“It’s somewhere in between. It’s a place you can swim right in LakeMuskoka. You go out for a boat ride or you can go over to different restaurants.”

- – -

And the condos – ($265,000 to $700,000)? Carports $25,000; surface parking $7,500.

They’ve sold about 60 condos in just over two years. There are three five-storey, 43-unit buildings overlooking Muskoka Bay. The first condo building – the Ditchburn – is sold out and many people have moved in. The second condo – the Greavette – is “60-some per cent sold.”

“Not bad for just starting to build (Greavette). That one we’re building now will take a year and then start the (third and final) one till after that’s finished.”

- – -

“From my perspective, it’s good for the Town.

We believe in it. And whether people will ever believe it.

“I never did it to make a profit.

“And I’ll be surprised whether if we make much of a profit.

“It could lose money – in the long term.”

- – - 

Are you philanthropic by nature?

“My wife thinks I am.

“To stay in business you have to make a profit. You can stay in business with a modest profit, as long as you make it consistently. It’s a huge risk, but I’m satisfied it’ll work.

“I’m at that time in my life where you could be in the paper every week explaining it. So I don’t do that. We have a long history here. We’ve been here for 57 years and we’re going to be here for a lot longer, probably.”

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Posted by on Mar 13 2014. Filed under Headlines. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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