By Colleen Isherwood, Editor
KEMBLE, Ont. — Cobble Beach is the dream of Willis McLeese. B
oth Willis and son Rob McLeese were committed to creating an environmentally sound, beautiful and pleasing state-of-the-art golf course community in harmony with nature.
It all started in 1998, when Rob McLeese was looking to buy a cottage in Muskoka, Ont. — 365 feet of shore with a run-down cottage.
His dad proposed an alternative — just under 600 acres with 1.25 miles of waterfront north of Owen Sount, Ont. — and that is what they purchased.
That was the beginning of Cobble Beach Golf Resort Community.
The site belonged to a German investor who had plans for 1,000 homes on the site, but who died before that could happen. “We bought it, and we got it, because we paid cash,” Rob McLeese told CLN.
Initially his father did the development work, but in 2004, his father stepped back and Rob took over.
They decided that they needed a really good golf course to draw people to the planned resort community, and enlisted Doug Carrick, a well-known Canadian golf course architect, whose courses were forgiving to people. Doug's major instruction was, “It's got to be fun.”
“Doug was wonderful; he was a huge support,” said McLeese.
Today the community consists of 574 acres, 40 per cent of which is green space. Phase 1, which consisted of 120 houses, is almost sold out and Phase 2, with 62 houses, starts in October. The ultimate residential build-out will be 1,100 to 1,400 homes in at least six phases.
Today, there's an 10-room hotel with a gourmet restaurant, retail store and spa on the premises, plus 10 rental cottages. But plans call for a hotel with approximately 100 rooms (75 to 120), with enough critical mass to make it work. It will be close to the golf clubhouse, with proximity to the tennis courts. There's no rush to build the hotel; indeed the plans to develop the community stretch over decades, not years.
“The hotel will be Canmore-style, where people buy condos and put them into the rental pool,” says Cory Haggar, general manager of resort operations, who came to the development from Clique Hotels in Canmore. “It will include restaurants on the lower floor, and condos on the next few levels. This is what people want to buy,” he said, adding that he sees the hotel as being in the style of Clique's Stonebridge Mountain Resort, Blackstone Mountain Lodge or Falcon Crest in Canmore, Alta.
In terms of time frame, McLeese is looking for a partner who wants to work on this over the next three to five years. He wants to keep the management in-house, and to maintain control over all phases of the development.
The existing hotel was built in July, 2007, coincidentally the 150th Anniversary of Owen Sound. The 10 rooms in the hotel have 20 beds, and include lofted suites in the main building. The restaurant has 120 seats, but can accommodate many more on its outdoor patio. There are other venues for weddings and conferences on the property. The Friday before CLN visited, they just about ran out of space, and accommodated 240 people using the patios.
There'a main kitchen in the hotel, and a sub-kitchen in the conference pavilion. There are also barbecues at the halfway house. Next year, they plan to build a another patio where they will serve pizza from pizza ovens, plus salads.
Tim Johnston is the executive chef at Cobble Beach. He used to be executive chef at Grosvenor House in Owen Sound before it closed. He was picked up as sous chef and was quickly promoted to his current position.
The development's Environmental Management Centre was built in 2006, and the water treatment facility in 2008. McLeese is proud of this aspect of the company. “It's a full state-of-the-art tertiary recovery waste treatment facility that services 880 residential units; and can accommodate 1,774 when we're done. Each home is using about 40 per cent of what we expected,” due to energy and water-saving design.