Boomers looking for new homes in the central part of the province are escaping the big cities to find adult lifestyle communities with plenty of leisure pursuits in the rural areas of Ontario
A swath of countryside stretching from Hamilton to Lake Huron, hugging the Georgian Bay coastline south of cottage country, has been quietly drawing interest from boomers looking for retirement locales.
While it might not have the profile of tourist areas like Muskoka, Haliburton or Niagara, this central Ontario region has plenty to offer those with leisure time to spend, from always-popular golf and watersports to a wealth of theatre and historical sites, antique shops and artisan studios to explore.
The popularity of Lake Huron’s spectacular sunsets is no exaggeration, says Sharon Vanhevel, community manager of Grand Cove Estates, just north of Grand Bend. “People come and park by the side of the road just to watch them,” she says.
Grand Cove is one of the older adult lifestyle communities in the region, first breaking ground in 1974 with a collection of modular bungalows that has evolved into custom-built homes by Rice Developments. With some 400 now occupied, the community is embarking on its final building phase.
It has all the requisite amenities – sandy beaches just steps away, half a dozen challenging golf courses nearby including the Oakwood Golf and Country Club next door, and the lakeside town with its harbour and Huron Country Playhouse theatre.
But one of the biggest attractions, Venhevel says, is the rural atmosphere.
“We’re not the big city,” she says, although London, Stratford with its Shakespearean Festival Theatre and Sarnia with its border crossing are all just an hour away.
That is an attraction for the region, agrees Helen Kimble, real estate consultant at Lora Bay at Thornbury, currently boasting 200 homes with another 60-100 serviced lots available and eventually planned to encompass more than 1,000 homes.
This golf-course community on Georgian Bay also has the attractions of waterfront, fairways, natural areas, nearby ski hills, and its own recreation lodge.
But it’s the “sense of community” that residents love, Kimble says.
“There’s a need to get out of the big city,” she says. “They feel an urge to find some place less congested.”
In such a community, they discover like-minded people and friendships form quickly. In fact, at Lora Bay “we’re famous for our meet-and-greet Fridays,” where residents gather, bring their own libations and get acquainted with their neighbours, Kimble adds.
Even some of the resort areas that have been popular retiree destinations are becoming crowded, and residents seeking quieter areas are moving into this region, says Deborah MacGregor-Brindley, whose family company, MacGregor Enterprises, operates Inverlyn Lake Estates at Kincardine, on Lake Huron north of Goderich.
Price point is also a factor, says MacGregor-Brindley.
“People are selling their half-million-dollar-plus homes, in the GTA for example, and spending $200-$300,000 on a home here and putting the rest in the bank. We’re also more reasonably priced than Muskoka (so some are) selling their Muskoka homes and coming down here.”
But the major attractions are location and lifestyle, she maintains.
Inverlyn Lake Estates was founded in 2007 by her father Sam MacGregor, a local developer, after he and wife Joan spent retirement time in some of Florida’s adult lifestyle communities and “thought they were pretty swell,” MacGregor-Brindley says.
Located on family-owned land, the property was ideally suited for such a community. Close to Lake Huron’s sandy Boiler Beach, accessed by a walking trail through a municipal park, it has its own 23-acre, spring-fed lake, created from a former gravel quarry. Bridges lead to two islands with gazebos, ideal for picnicking.
The property boasts a 90-acre woodland with eight kilometres of walking trails, a picnic shelter, fenced dog run and RV storage; there’s an additional 1.1-km trail around the lake. A clubhouse features an outdoor salt-water pool, putting green and woodworking shop. And there’s access to the neighbouring 18-hole Ainsdale Golf Course.
Information about these communities is available online at www.grandcove.ca, http://www.lorabay.com and www.inverlynlakeestates.com.
Across the region, boomers are finding similar amenities and companionship at other adult lifestyle communities.
Grey and Bruce Counties, bordering Georgian Bay and including the Bruce Peninsula, are home to the Residences of Cobble Beach at Owen Sound, with fairways offering panoramic views of the Bay (www.cobblebeach.com); Gates of Kent, with bungaloft townhomes on Georgian Bay at Meaford (reidsheritagehomes.com); Lakewood, a 550-acre community surrounding West Little Lake on the Peninsula north of Wiarton (lakewood.net); and Meneset On The Lake, a Parkbridge community just north of Goderich, also on Lake Huron, where just a few homes are still available (parkridge.ca.)
To the south and east in the Huron-Perth-Waterloo-Wellington and Hamilton regions, long-standing communities like Pine Meadows, on Lake Belwood near Fergus (www.pinemeadows.ca), Fairway Estates, part of Pike Lake Resort near Mount Forest (pinelake.com), and Antrim Glen, a Parkbridge community between Hamilton and Cambridge (parkridge.ca), have sold out of new homes but may have resales.
Others still building include the Bridges of Seaforth golf course community (www.bridgesofseaforth.ca); Stonecroft Homes in the heart of Waterloo Region’s Mennonite country at New Hamburg (www.stonecrofthomes.com); and Village By The Arboretum in Guelph, with a variety of housing styles and now featuring suites in a new midrise condo building (http://villagebythearboretum.com.)
New communities coming to Meaford, Exeter and Hamilton
As boomers seek to shed the big-city rat race for more pastoral retirement living, developers in the central Ontario region, with its acres of farmland and towns and villages dotting country roads, are stepping up to the plate.
At Meaford, a Georgian Bay town in “apple orchard country” – Grey County is the province’s largest producer – Meaford Haven, still in the planning stages, has trademarked itself as a “three-seasons community.”
“Nothing to do with the time of year, everything to do with the time of life,” says its creative director, Paul Grissom.
Based on “an old idea whose time has come around again,” he says the concept sees elders being taken care of in their own neighbourhoods.
The developer, Duo-investments of Thornhill, envisions a community where people in their 50s, in many cases still working, will relocate and remain through the next stages of their lives, as they begin to slow down and, later, need more assistance, he explains. “Create a place that’s attractive, livable and reasonably priced, and attract people who are willing to live the promise to look after each other.”
Meaford Haven, planned to include cluster bungalows, mid-rise condominiums, apartments, a retirement residence and medical centre, will be built on a wooded site with a stream running through it. Walking trails will meander through the woods and lead to the 18-hole Meaford Golf and Country Club. A multi-use clubhouse is also planned.
Grissom says more than 500 people, both local and from other parts of the province, have expressed interest in the community and 30 per cent of those have participated in virtual focus groups, offering input on the project.
Meanwhile, Riverview Meadows, a new Parkbridge community, is about to break ground in the north end of Exeter.
“We’re just about to start on our first model,” says Teresa Ondrejicka, senior regional manager for Parkbridge in Southwestern Ontario. It should be open by November with homes available by the new year.
The 72-townhouse community neighbours Parkbridge’s existing Riverview Estates and its clubhouse will be refurbished and shared by both communities, Ondrejicka says. It’s also within metres of the MacNaughton–Morrison section of the South Huron walking trail, which winds through the Ausable River valley between Exeter’s MacNaughton Park and the Morrison Dam Conservation Area.
As well, Ondrejicka adds, there are two major golf courses nearby.
These communities, she says, are definitely meeting a need in the agricultural area as people retire into the town.
In the Hamilton area, Starward Homes, developers of the sold-out Garth Trails adult lifestyle community at Stoney Creek and the bungaloft townhomes at Bungalows of Ancaster South, will begin construction on a new neighbourhood this fall.
Scenic Trails, launching in late October or early November, will be a mixture of bungalofts, similar to those in Ancaster South, and single family homes, says Jennifer Meszaros, a marketing coordinator with Starward Homes.
Garth Trails, the developer’s largest adult lifestyle community project in the area, sold out its 400 homes in a seven- or eight-year period, which Meszaros says does speak to a regional need for such communities.
Information about these projects is available atmeafordhaven.ca, adultlifestylecommunities.ca and starwardhomes.com.