Story by Arina Kharlamova
BIG BAY POINT, ONTARIO — It’s called Friday Harbour and its developers hope Torontonians will be thankful for it.
A new cottage community on Lake Simcoe, Friday Harbour won’t open until spring 2015 at Big Bay Point but it is still the talk of cottage country. Like the winter communities of Whistler, Mont Tremblant and Blue Mountain, all designed by the same resort team at Re:Play, Friday Harbour is looking to be a luxury getaway. Closer to the city than any other cottage destination, and more sustainable as well, Friday Harbour is likely to become Toronto’s hottest cottage community when it debuts.
The planned 1,600 units are nowhere to be seen yet on the 600-acre plot of land, but the excavation and dredging of the 1,000-slip marina has begun. The land dug from the marina will be used to shape the Doug Carrick-designed championship golf course that is to be a stone’s throw from the “European-style” marina village planned on the waterfront. The stones that separate it lie on a 200-acre nature reserve that supports and strengthens the natural habitat of local species, and actively re-inhabits others like the endangered butternut tree.
Friday Harbour has been 10 years in the making because of community concerns about overcrowding and pollution. While the battles are not yet over, Shauna Dudding, vice-president of development for Geranium Corp., says, “We’ve had over 50 public consultations. We’ve engaged on so many different levels because it was important to us, as we’re fitting into a community. We wanted to be able to be a part of their neighbourhood.”
Cottage Country’s Upscale Resort for Toronto
The lake is a key component to the waterfront community and thus it is in the development group’s interests to keep it as “drinkable, fishable and swimmable” as much as possible.
Dudding says that the company has worked with the county of Innisfill, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Transport Canada “to develop some of the most advanced technology for waste-water treatment and for phosphorus reduction management, because that is the nutrient of concern here in Lake Simcoe.”
However, the focus on a sustainable community extends to the 7 kilometres of walking trails, expanded amphibian habitats for local species like the red-bellied snake, and the expansive septic system that extends to more than 1,700 pre-existing homes. Even the construction process was taken into account: for every tree torn down in the construction, two will be planted.
Friday Harbour is a new type of relaxation and entertainment community for the changing, and usually connected lifestyles of Torontonians. Bachelor suites will start in the mid-$200,000 range, and semi-detached townhomes with up to five bedrooms on the islands in the marina will be around $1.2 million, but prices are not yet final. A rental program will also be available for those looking for a weekend or week-long retreat and a hotel is in the works, as well.
The village is accessible by GO Transit, whose closest station is 12 kilometres away in Barrie. Friday Harbour is 80 kilometres from downtown Toronto, accessible via the major 400-series highways that service Canada’s largest city. “The resort will take on the life of the people that participate in it,” says Todd Nishimura, director of marketing and sales, “and they will shape and colour the texture of Friday Harbour.”
The nearby communities of Innisfill and Barrie will be encouraged to participate in Friday Harbour life: 3-on-3 hockey games, farmer’s and arts markets, events at the amphitheatre, and access to the golf course, marina and lake club. The compact cottage lifestyle an hour’s drive north of the city just might be a draw for those looking to have a cottage experience that cuts out some of the traffic nightmares that plague so much of the GTA, making those Friday getaway trips even more pleasurable.