By Jim Adair
While the provincial government’s new housing policies cooled the Greater Toronto Real Estate market in May, the decade-long real estate boom is still being felt across the province. Kingston, Ont. and area saw a near record-setting real estate market this spring, partly due to buyers cashing in their equity and buying retirement properties in smaller towns.
“City homeowners who thought they had to work several more years to build up their savings are not only in a position to retire early if they move to a small town, they are also able to afford luxurious properties on the water,” says Marah Hamilton, regional director at Milborne Real Estate. She is also marketing director for the Stone & South condo development in Gananoque, Ont., one of the small towns that is benefiting from the real estate boom.
For years the town, which is on the St. Lawrence River, 33 km east of Kingston, has been known as a vacation paradise and “the gateway to the 1,000 Islands”. But in winter when the tourists leave, many businesses close shop. While the province’s population grew by 4.6 per cent from 2011 to 2016, Gananoque’s dropped by 0.7 per cent according to the 2016 Census.
The Stone & South development is one of a few new projects that promise to breathe new life into the town. The builders, CaraCo Development, recently hosted REM for an overnight trip to experience the town and visit the Stone & South sales centre. They did not review this story before publication.
Hamilton says the project is aimed at urbanites from Toronto and Ottawa “who’ve always dreamed of owning a luxurious waterfront property.” Ninety per cent of Stone & South’s suites have unobstructed views of the St. Lawrence River. Residents can also purchase their own private boat slips of up to 40 feet.
The project consists of two six-storey condo residences with 118 open concept suites of up to 1,547 square feet. One to three-bedroom suites are available, with each featuring flex space that allows residents to adapt floorplans to their needs. Custom and combination suites are also available. Most units have eight-foot-deep balconies.
Other amenities include gated and manicured gardens, concierge services, a fitness centre, a swimming dock, storage for bicycles, kayaks and canoes and secured underground parking with visitor parking.
Prices currently range from $456,900 for an 802-square-foot unit to $823,900 for the 1,547-sq. ft. unit. Occupancy is scheduled for March 2019.
Hamilton says that while the waterfront location “gets people’s attention”, the “city dwellers who are used to walking to conveniences also really like how live theatre, restaurants and boutique retailers are within easy walking distance.”
The site is beside the Thousands Island Playhouse, which this year is presenting eight shows from May to October. REM attended a performance of Boom: The Explosive Story of a Generation, which is a one-man show by Rick Miller featuring a dazzling array of special effects and took the audience on a journey from 1945 to 1969.
The site is also a five-minute walk from The Gananoque Inn & Spa, which includes two waterfront restaurants. Other dining options include the upscale Riva Italian Restaurant, the funky Socialist Pig restaurant and coffee shop and Graydon’s Restaurant at the historic Woodview Inn.
In addition to boating, the area boasts several golf courses as well as walking trails and a couple of nearby provincial parks. The town also has several art galleries, the Thousand Islands Boat Museum, the Gananoque Brewing Company and a casino.
As with most new developments, not everyone in town welcomed the plans with open arms. Opposition to the concept centred around parking issues, particularly when the theatre is operating, as well as concern that the building as originally planned would cut off views of the river from the street. That prompted CaraCo to go back to the drawing board and come up with the two-building concept, with a gap in the middle to provide the river views.
Proponents of the project say the town desperately needs new tax dollars, which the 118 new condo owners will provide. The town is also working to attract new businesses to the area and rely less on being a summer-only destination.
Hamilton says most of the people visiting the sales centre at 5 King St. E. are interested in purchasing a unit for themselves, but there has also been some investor interest. She says CaraCo is offering a rental service for investors, or snowbirds who only plan to use the units for a short time each year. The developers are co-operating with real estate salespeople.