Saturday, November 14, 2020

Looking toward Lillooet Vancouver Sun Westcoast Homes & Design November 14th, 2020

Real estate: Looking toward Lillooet

The Fraser Canyon town is attracting city dwellers with an active lifestyle and affordable housing

Sunday, November 1, 2020

A Road Trip to Rowena's at Harrison Mills and Fraser River Lodge in Agassiz. Two terrific getaways!

A number of years ago I bought a charity silent auction item that consisted of a night stay at Rowena's resort and a round of golf at the adjacent Sandpiper golf course in Harrison Mills. Since it had to be used by October 31 of that year, Sally and I decided to take advantage of it Halloween weekend. We had absolutely no idea what to expect, and were most pleasantly surprised. One of the highlights was seeing what we thought was a squirrel jumping across the fairway, only to discover it was in fact salmon in a small small creek traversing the course. We subsequently discovered there were lots of salmon in the creeks and eagles in the trees.

The main house, once the Petty Estate, has been subdivided into a number of suites. Charlie's room is the smallest at the back. But it was very comfortable, and a relaxing place to stay. No TV!
If one of the cabins is available, book it! These are the newest ones and they are exceptionally well-appointed.  

In subsequent years, we have returned to Rowena's, (one year even booked the entire resort for a golf weekend with friends.) You can find details about the facility  here and you will see that it consists of a grand estate property that has been converted five or six suites, and a number of cabins, some of which are relatively new.

On a recent trip to play golf with colleagues from Lumon Canada I discovered that Rowena's has been purchased by Keltic Corporation, the company that also purchased the Grouse Inn property I rezoned in North Vancouver at Capilano Road and Marine drive. The company also owns a number of other unique properties around the region, including one which is very close to my home!

The golf course is quite beautiful, overlooking the water and mountains with a lot of eagles! As Sally said, this was the only eagle (or birdie for that matter) that I saw!

This weekend, Sally and I decided to return once again to Rowena's. Unfortunately, the resort was fully booked except for Charlie's room is the smallest of suites in the house. Furthermore, while we wanted to stay for two nights, it was fully Saturday night. However, we got to play golf and watch the eagles and airplanes taking off on a runway next to the 17th hole fairway. We had dinner at the Sandpiper golf club restaurant and it was excellent. I recommend the beef stroganoff!  

If you are looking for a 'stay-vacation' getaway, I can highly recommend Rowena's. Go with some friends and book a number of suites or cabins. You won't be disappointed.

Since we couldn't stay a second night, Jo our server recommended we check out the Fraser River Fishing Lodge. (You don't have to fish to stay there.) We called and were told there were two options: a $175 room, and the 'executive' honeymoon suite at $200, which included a double-jacuzzi tub and gas fireplace. We chose the latter and booked Sunday morning breakfast for $25 per person. You can find more details here:

It was quite astounding to have the entire facility for ourselves (except for another couple we never saw.)

I was both surprised and somewhat disappointed to discover that other than one other couple, we were the only ones staying at the resort. One one hand, we felt exceptionally fortunate. On the other, I was quite sad that many more people were not there to take advantage of this very nice facility, in a magnificent setting with bison hanging out in front of your room.

It was fun to get close and personal with these beasts. Sally was curious whether the breakfast sausage was bison. It wasn't!

Sunday morning we enjoyed a beautifully breakfast in the lounge. We were served by a charming young man who turned out to be the son of the owners. When I complimented his parents on the creation of such a beautiful facility, he told me his father was German and his mother of UK heritage and this was the third Lodge they had developed. 

I felt somewhat guilty that he and the other staff had opened the lounge and prepared an exceptional breakfast with fresh fruit, juices, croissants and pastries, eggs, bacon and sausage, and coffee JUST FOR US. So much to Sally's chagrin, I had to offer some marketing advice since it seemed sad that more people from Vancouver were not taking advantage of this beautiful facility, especially since the Americans were unable to visit. 

At any rate, that is why I have written this blog to share our experience. Rowena's is a wonderful getaway and so is this lodge. Sally and I plan to return soon and go fishing. We may not take the Honeymoon Suite. Instead we will leave it for someone else! Like you

A road trip to Lillooet

As you approach the town, it's hard to miss the entry sign

In late September  I accepted an invitation from Peter Busse, mayor of Lillooet, to meet Kevin Taylor, the local planner, and Jeremy Denegar, the District’s Chief Administrative Officer. Originally from the Victoria area, the mayor told me they were 'enticed' to come to Lillooet from the Okanagan.  A young, openly gay couple, ready to start a new life, upon arrival in Lillooet, they found a building lot and within five months had completed construction of a modern four-bedroom house for less than the price of a Victoria condominium apartment.

Since arriving less than a year ago, they have forged significant relationships in the community, and additionally with the surrounding First Nations communities. They have also processed two significant subdivisions that had been languishing for some time prior to their arrival. The mayor and no doubt many in the community are very happy to have them around!

Lillooet is currently preparing a new Official Community Plan (OCP) 12 years after the last OCP, to guide future planning and attract investment. The mayor and his new CAO and planner wanted me to hear about their vision for the community and beautification plans for the downtown. 

This was my first visit to Lillooet since the 1970s when I was there in my capacity as CMHC's assistant architect/planner involved with what was then called the Rural and Native Housing Program. Although our stay was short, it was most enjoyable and I have written an article that will appear in the November Westcoast Homes & Design magazine. But in the meanwhile, here is a bit of information that I think you will find of interest.
Lillooet's history is very much tied to minerals, as becomes evident when touring Main Street

Lillooet is located 130 km from Whistler, 170 km from Kamloops and 250 km north-east of Vancouver. It had its start as one of the main centres of the 1858–59 Fraser Canyon Gold Rush, during which time it was said to be the largest town west of Chicago and north of San Francisco. The District of Lillooet was founded in 1946, so next year is its 75th Anniversary.

Main Street offers room for improvement and Mayor Busse and his senior staff are well aware of this.

In some respects, little had changed since I was last there. The main street lives up to the community’s branding tagline “Guaranteed Rugged”, which is prominently displayed on the entry signage, marketing materials, and even the mayor’s business card with its missing corner, as if eaten by a bear.

Jeremy and Kevin are not the only ones buying property in Lillooet. During my visit I learned that offshore investors have also been purchasing land in anticipation of future growth.

With the new population comes a Farmers' Market!

It is not surprising that people are now considering Lillooet as a place to live. Anyone who has visited Squamish and Pemberton recently will have discovered both are growing rapidly. They are becoming very attractive places to live with well-designed mixed-use and residential developments located along beautifully landscaped streets. But they are becoming expensive, which is why an increasing number of people are now considering moving to Lillooet. 

While Lillooet desperately needs a decent hotel or inn, it does have a very good winery. Fort Berens Winery was started by a Dutch couple and it is not only a good tasting experience, there's a good restaurant too. Lillooet now has a second winery called the Cliff and Gorge, just outside the town . In addition, the community has managed to attract a craft brewery which is presently under construction and they are hopeful to be able to attract another business, possibly a distillery. 

As you will read in my Vancouver Sun column, there was a time when kids left their small towns to move to the big city. Now it's happening in reverse. And for good reason!

Sally reads up on the town's history and connections to First Nations and the Chinese and Japanese communities.