Developer Michael Thornton envisions cottages on the sea.
Vancouver Island development marks one developer's dream of paradise
For developer Michael Thornton, SookePoint at Silver Spray, a planned oceanfront community in East Sooke, has been a 17-year journey that at times has been as rocky as the terrain the development will be built on.
Thornton explains that initially he envisioned a relatively small stone building: “it was going to be held in place with a couple of big rock outcroppings, like the way you would hold a diamond in a ring.” But the economies of scale weren't sufficient, so next he considered a 150-room hotel “reminiscent of a B.C. ferry,” and went as far as getting a development permit. “But then 2008 came and it just didn’t make sense, and it was impossible to borrow $60 million," says Thornton.
Eventually, he settled on a villa resort concept and with his wife Roxanne travelled to Europe, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand looking for design inspirations. “We’re really collectors,” Thornton says. “I don’t claim to have that much architectural knowledge, but I do know what I like, when I see it.” He explains that he collected ideas from each resort he visited.
Back in Canada, Thornton knew he would have to tailor his collected ideas to fit the Canadian context. He chose a cottage concept and the direction and design for the development were set.
A major hurdle to getting the project underway was its destination resort zoning, which would allow owners to live at the resort full-time, while also being able to rent out their property at nightly rates. Another benefit of the zoning, Thornton says, is that buyers qualify for a first mortgage as home owners.
Thornton says his personal love of the site has fuelled his determination throughout the 17 years it has taken to get the project off the ground. On the waterfront edge of a 1,400-hectare wilderness park, the 70-hectare site offers sunset views and easy access to marine-life viewing and boating. “I have travelled the world, quite extensively for this project,” he says, “and I can honestly say I have never seen a more beautiful piece of land.”
A show suite of the planned 95-cottage community was completed in July this year, along with 94 viewing decks. Thornton plans to build cottages in groups of four to eight as units are sold. No units can be sold until the developer files a disclosure statement with Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate, which Thornton says he expects to do within a week.
Thornton hopes to some day add a boutique hotel and restaurants to the property, but he admits that depends on how well the cottages sell.