Many of the mountain towns we love to play in are growing. Here's a look at what's being built right now in Canmore, Fernie and Revelstoke.
By Shelley Arnusch | August 1, 2019
Having a place in the mountains is something most outdoorsy types have at least pondered on occasion. The idea that you could wake up, have your coffee and be out on the slopes or the trails without first having to undertake an extended highway drive gets more and more appealing the more of those drives you do. For sporty families with kids, a mountain home-away-from-home certainly alleviates the stress of planning individual trips, and, for those who eventually want to retire in the mountains, the dream is a place that can be used for vacation getaways now and transition into a full-time residence later on.
These new communities being built in three of our favourite mountain towns each have unique attributes, but the one thing they have in common is that they’re for people who love being in the mountains.
Spring Creek is a medium-density community currently being built out on a 70-acre spread of land right in the heart of Canmore. Developer Frank Kernick is the third-generation owner of the land, a former dairy farm that’s been in his family since 1927. Having convinced his father and uncle that the time was right, Kernick initiated development at Spring Creek in 2002. Prior to that, the former farmland was being used as a campground. But those who used to camp there won’t recognize it now, with its alpine-modern multifamily residences, main-street-style shopping plaza and the grand new Malcolm Hotel.
When completed, Spring Creek’s population will be approximately 2,000, essentially making it a town within a town. Up to 300 of the 1,000 residences will be designated “tourist-home,” a zoning classification that permits short-term vacation rentals. “Our hope is that 70 to 80 per cent are full-time residents and 20 to 30 per cent are part-time residents, because we really want Spring Creek, being in the heart of Canmore, to have an active community,” Kernick says. With its lock-and-leave lifestyle, Spring Creek is tailor-made for the active retiree/snowbird set, and there are also options for this demographic to age in place. “This was a market that was a need in Canmore,” Kernick says.
“People were having to leave Canmore because they did not have the appropriate seniors’ housing.” Origin at Spring Creek offers three tiers of senior care — from independent living, to assisted living, to memory care. The Origin building also houses one of Spring Creek’s community pubs, the Mine Shaft Tavern, a classic pint-and-darts kind of place with a street-front entrance for general-public patrons and an interior entrance for Origin residents.
Albertans flock to Fernie, B.C. for its world-class skiing and mountain biking. While some are drawn to the ski-in-ski-out properties at Fernie Alpine Resort, others prefer places with better accessibility to the town centre. That’s one of the features of Montane, a new residential community located just southeast of downtown (or, in Fernie terms, about a five-minute trail ride away).
Montane is the work of Parastone, a Fernie-based development company headed by Aussie-expat Simon Howse, who first came to the area in 1997. Montane was originally slated to be a golf-course development. When that project fell into receivership, Parastone acquired the land in 2013. Upon review, Howse decided to scrap the golf-course plans and instead create a network of multi-use trails on the community’s northeastern slopes.
Building public-access trails was certainly an effective way to curry favour with Fernie locals. Another was to give them an exclusive offer to purchase initial lots. As a result, Howse says 75 per cent of homes in phases one, two and three are occupied by Fernie residents. Phase four, he says, is “more 50/50” of local to recreational-property buyers.
All four initial phases are now sold out, with another three phases planned: Phase five goes up for sale this fall, while phases six and seven will be what Howse describes as a lock-and-leave “villa-style development” with “cottage-like” homes, marketed to retirees and downsizers. Howse estimates the community will have between 300 and 400 residences when it’s complete and should be fully built out by 2025. Almost half of Montane is zoned for short-term vacation rentals.
In addition to the trails, Montane also has a farm — rather than razing the land’s original farming operation, Howse decided to restore it as a community hub. A horse barn and chicken coop are up and running and ultimately the farm will have ducks, lambs, goats and pigs as well as a vegetable garden and small orchard.
Approximately half-an-hour’s drive south of Revelstoke, Shelter Bay is a new community being carved out of a 5,200-acre patch of forest next to Upper Arrow Lake. Vancouver-based developer Cedar Coast acquired the land in 2007 and started building out Shelter Bay in 2017. Initial phases have offered 2.5-acre lots. Another 20 five- and six-acre lots were released earlier this year with 27 more five-acre lots to come. Future phases beyond that will feature smaller lots, mostly in the half-acre range. The entire community is zoned for nightly vacation rentals.
Since Shelter Bay is selling just the home sites for custom builds, lot owners aren’t required to build right away. “We have had a couple of instances where people may not be ready to build for a few years, but they are just in love with the area and they have future plans to locate there, so they’re securing their piece of paradise,” says Cedar Coast co-president Ender Ilkay.
Ilkay forecasts that Shelter Bay will be built out in approximately 20 to 25 years at a pace of approximately 20 to 25 homes per year. The community has attracted several Alberta-based buyers, Edmontonians among them. “As far as the demographic, the one common thread is that they’re all very unique individuals and they all love the outdoors,” Ilkay says. As development proceeds, plans are to create a non-motorized trail system within the community for activities such as mountain-biking, hiking and Nordic skiing, as well as beach access areas and green spaces and eventually a general store.
Ultimately, it’s the lake that truly sets Shelter Bay apart. “A lot of people don’t know Upper Arrow Lake,” says Ilkay. Crystal-clear and surrounded by mountains, it’s nothing short of “geographically spectacular,” he says. “From a development-yield perspective it’s a big undertaking to do something like this, almost create something from the beginning, from scratch,” he says. “But I fell in love with the property when I saw it and pictured what it could become.
This article appears in the August 2019 issue of Avenue Edmonton