MICHAEL BERNARD Updated: July 29, 2017
Salt Spring Island in the Gulf Islands has long been a playground for Metro Vancouver’s affluent, with million-dollar vacation homes being passed down through three or four generations, putting Island life out of reach for many average income earners.
But a resurrected development located on 34 acres on Bullock Lake provides a means for more Lower Mainlanders to purchase a stake on the idyllic Gulf Island. The Cottages on Salt Spring Island were built in the early 2000s as a plan to offer people a chance to own a cottage as part of a resort community, explains Ben Hurlbutt, whose Vancouver firm Engel & Volkers is marketing the vacation homes.
But when the financial crisis hit the economy, the project was pushed into bankruptcy, and the largely completed cottages stood vacant for a few years until Kyle Shury of Platform Properties purchased them six years ago and put forward a proposal for a new ownership structure.
“These are a hidden gem,” said Hurbutt, adding there is nothing comparable for sale on Salt Spring Island at a starting price point of $379,000.
Buyers have the option of placing a cottage in a rental program administered by Platform Properties, who have hired seasoned hotelier Michael Duggan to manage the program. Launched in June with advertising in Travelocity and Booking.com, the cottages rent for about $275 a night, with all weekends booked through the summer.
Unlike many developments involving pre-sales, the cottages are ready now for occupancy and have an infrastructure of well water, sewage-treatment plant and an underground electrical network in place, said Hurlbutt.
“You could come and stay and close a deal the next day,” he said.
The cottages, which come with hotel-quality furnishings, are done in an attractive weathered cedar board and batten siding along with shingling, and cedar shingles.
Many of the cottages have three levels, with a fully functional open-concept kitchen, living and dining room on the main level and a balcony overlooking Bullock Lake, one or two bedrooms with ensuite upstairs, and a walk-out ground level with another bedroom and a bathroom below. Larger models provide space for a meeting or recreation room on the ground level. There are also two-level cottages available.
The first row of cottages is set back from the edge of Bullock Lake, with a buffer zone of trees and bulrushes between the cabins and the water. They are linked by a trail that runs in front of the homes. Other cottages are situated on the hillside overlooking the lake.
What differentiates the cottages from other accommodation on Salt Spring is the scale, said Hurlbutt. Platform, which currently is renting out 25 of the 50 completed homes, envisions the resort attracting everything from destination weddings to health-and-wellness stays to corporate retreats. The original development had a 25,000-square-foot amenity space that was destroyed in a fire. The current owners hope that the local zoning authority, the Islands Trust, might eventually be persuaded to approve a scaled down version for the amenity site that could also serve as a community facility, Hurlbutt said. He added the resort has the build-out capacity of 129 cabins, for which foundations have already been laid.
On the lake is a dock system where owners and guests can relax on Adirondack chairs or make use of canoes and paddleboards provided by the resort operator, who has also constructed a BBQ platform and gathering area just up from the lake shore.
Kathleen Holton, who was staying at the resort with her two small children and her husband John, is considering buying into the Cottages.
“I love the Gulf Islands, My husband and I used to spend a lot of time on Saturna Island. “
What draws them to the Cottages is the idea that everything from new furniture and pots and pans to bed linens would be supplied. Unlike hotel rooms though, there is a kitchen for making family meals, she said. Holton also likes the idea of being able to place the cottage in a rental program rather than manage renting out their cottage themselves.
Holton said the family—her husband is busy running a heli-ski operation back home in Golden—has had lots of fun during their week on Salt Spring visiting beaches, playgrounds and even walking around some of the resort’s 34 acres of forest and meadow land.
Salt Spring also has lots to offer those without children in tow. The island has three wineries, a brewery and a cidery, and a distillery for visitors. It also has shops and restaurants in Ganges — which is a five-minute drive away —a movie house, dozens of pottery and artisan studios, a 3,200-yard nine-hole golf course, and a local hospital with 19 acute care beds and a medevac service to transport patients to Vancouver Island or the mainland for advanced care.