By now, you should be familiar with Friday Harbour — the resort community on Lake Simcoe whose scope can only be described as epic.
The project is pulling together an incredible range of experts to create a truly unique experience north of the city. Geranium Corporation is the land development company overseeing the diverse team and Earl Rumm, Geranium’s president, is the guy running the show.
Already an acclaimed and respected homebuilder, Geranium are carving out some prime territory in the resort community building market. Once complete, Friday Harbour will comprise about 2000 units, 50 to 60 shops, a world class golf course and marina.
We chat with Earl about the epic scope of Friday Harbour, who they’re selling to and why thousands of amphibians will be thanking them in a few years.
BuzzBuzzHome: What led you to a career in the development industry?
Earl Rumm: I started homebuilding 35 years ago. My partner, Barry Feiner, and I started Geranium Homes. We started with two homes in Scarborough and over time, as the city grew, we also grew. Then about 12 years ago I got into land development as well.
BBH: There’s so many different companies working on the Friday Harbour project. What’s your role specifically?
ER: I’m the President of Geranium Corporation and I’m also a partner both at Friday Harbour and Geranium Corporation. I oversee everything that happens in regards to Friday Harbour.
BBH: It’s a huge project. Could you describe the scope of it briefly?
ER: It’s definitely a unique project for the Toronto market. It encompasses 600 acres where we’ll have a state-of-the-art golf course and marina village, separated in the middle by an amazing environmentally protected, walkable trailed area. Friday Harbour is certainly unique in its location, being on the doorsteps of Barrie with all of its amenities. Location-wise, we’ve got GO Trains and Buses, access up the 400 and several routes coming down the east and west side of the 400 including the 404 into Toronto. Eventually there will be as many as 2000 units built along with all the amenities — 50 to 60 shops on our boardwalk. From our understanding today, it’s the largest resort being undertaken from inception in North America.
BBH: Is this what you always wanted to do — build this resort that was massive in scope — or did it evolve over time?
ER: I’d like to take the credit for having that scope of genius, but I can’t. I had the idea and I certainly bought the marina with the idea of producing some format of a resort, but over the ten years to get us to this point and literally the hundreds of people that have worked on this project, the vision was created with everybody who’s been involved.
BBH: Did you have a previous affinity for Lake Simcoe and the surrounding area?
ER: I grew up as a teenager on Lake Simcoe, seasonally. Parents of friends of mine owned cottages on Lake Simcoe, both on the Barrie side and the Keswick side. My parents had a cottage in Keswick so I was quite familiar with the area.
BBH: How did you assemble the large team working on the project?
ER: Friday Harbour first started as a planning exercise for Geranium Corporation. We had to get all kinds of rezoning on it and working with three levels of government to get it to that state. Then it went through an engineering process, which was very lengthy and detailed. When it became time to market the project, we set up a brand new office in Toronto specifically for Friday Harbour. We started to bring staff on to market, sell and create the identity of this new entity. Our primary sales location is at the Flatiron in downtown Toronto. It has lots of people involved in it, from sales people to marketing people — all kinds of creative geniuses.
BBH: You’re working with Peter Clewes of architectsAlliance. Tell us more about how he was brought on for the project.
ER: Peter Clewes is an amazing architect, along with a half a dozen of his staff who have been working on this project.
BBH: What’s the timeline on creating this massive project?
ER: Friday Harbour is underway right now. We’ve been working on-site for two years. There’s been a tremendous amount of work that’s been done from clearing a certain amount of vegetation to moving different types of dirt around to creating our stormwater management ponds. We’ve been draining the marina under the guidance of different ministries. We’re also working on the excavation of the marina itself. We’ll be moving about 1.8 million cubic metres of dirt from that area and putting it on our golf course.
The construction of the actual units will start in the next 15 to 18 months, if not sooner. Moving in the first 300 hundred residents, the first shops, the marina and the golf course is slated for 2015. The completion of the entire resort is more or less a 10 year project.
BBH: Who’s your target market for this development?
ER: To tell you that I understand it 100% right now would not be so. It’s a very different project and we’re learning about it as we go. By opening up in downtown Toronto, we have certainly targeted buyers from the urban Toronto area who have never owned a second home that want to get involved in a great place close to Toronto transportation. We’re also targeting people who have existing second homes, who may want to trade down or trade laterally.
BBH: The nature preserve element of the project is very impressive. Who did you consult when you were developing that component of Friday Harbour?
ER: We were in consultation with three levels of government — municipal, the county and the province — throughout this entire planning process. Basically, we’ve left most of the nature preserve intact. Where the golf course is located at the westerly end of the project was a farm and we did not have to change any of the features there. Primarily what we’ve done in the nature preserve is put in the main road throughout that connects the golf course and the marina village. We’re enhancing the walking trails which will be about seven kilometres.
We’re also going to create different species habitats. In doing that, we’ll find we can locate the species better as well as help them survive better over a 12 month period of time. This area would be naturally very wet in the spring and fall and dry up in the summer and winter. The species that exist there today, the amphibians would have a very short lifespan. We’re creating an environment where they can survive over a 12 month period of time.
BBH: What will your favourite amenity be at Friday Harbour?
ER: I’m a boater. I have a cottage up in the area. The reason for me first having the idea of building the resort and buying the marina was that I kept my boats at this marina.
But really, I think my favourite thing to do up at Friday Harbour will be to make sure all the residents and visitors are having a fabulous time.
Thanks for buzzing with us Earl!