Solara Resort gives owners a Rocky Mountain high
Reborn spa offers the best of Canmore’s recreational lifestyle
“It is the best decision I have ever made,” says an emphatic Enisha Bhimji of her purchase of a two-bedroom condo in the Solara Resort and Spa in Canmore.
“My daughters are so happy and sometimes, when I go out there, I just sit and look out my windows at the mountains.”
The 57-year-old Bhimji, a single parent who holds two jobs — as a rehabilitation nurse working with special needs patients and as a part-time transit driver — bought the condo at the Solara resort last November. She has her unit in the rental pool, but Bhimji says it is almost always being used by herself, her two adult daughters (both registered nurses with their own Calgary homes), or friends and relatives. Her oldest daughter, Ashnoor Dhalla, 28, loves hiking and is “a nature person.”
Daughter Arsheen Dhalla, 26, likes to relax and get her nails done in the onsite One Wellness + Spa. “I like both,” says Bhimji with a smile.
Solara is a 214-unit condo/hotel resort. It was purchased out of bankruptcy in 2010 by Calgary-based Bellstar Hotels and Resorts and there are now just 17 units (one, two and three bedrooms) available for purchase.
Rudy Tomazic, vice-president of real estate with Bellstar, says while Canmore’s condo hotel market has not recovered as quickly as the single-family housing sector — where values are now, in some cases, above the levels of recessionary 2007 — in the area, it is getting there. Sales figures for the first half of 2014 show the average selling price of a suite jumped 26 per cent — to $240,365 from $191,432 — over the first half of 2013.
At Solara, full ownership of a suite ranges from $229,000 for a one-bedroom (which includes a $50,000 furnishing package) to $429,000 for a three-bedroom.
Suites range from 733 to 1,583 square feet. Fractional ownership is available. Buyers can put their unit in the rental pool, managed onsite through the full-service resort facilities. Most buyers have come from Calgary and Edmonton, and Bellstar estimates putting a suite in the rental pool for the 75 per cent of time they are not there pays for condo operating expenses for the year.
“It really is the lock-and-leave lifestyle,” says Tomazic.
He says owners just have to check in and check out, and everything else is looked after — there are none of the worries associated with other types of recreational properties.
Solara is made up of three residential complexes — Aurora, Bow and Chinook — with the suites winding around a common courtyard area.
Part of the resort is the Three Peaks Conference Centre and the full-scale spa and wellness centre. Negotiations are underway for an onsite restaurant.
The resort features underground parking, a hot pool, kids’ water play area and concierge service.
Capacity rentals have meant a 20 per cent increase this year in returns to suite owners.
For both Solara owners and the visitors who rent the suites, Canmore has everything a strong recreational market needs.
“There are the restaurants and nightlife but not the heavy tourism overcrowding of Banff. You can hike every level, including just a walk with your grandmother. There are lots of cultural events, there is a big new recreation centre and there is the proximity to the national parks and to both Calgary and Edmonton,” says Tomazic.
The exteriors of Solara include natural stone and slate and there are terraces or private balconies off the living rooms (and the master suite in some units). Inside, the open-concept living area has nine-foot high ceilings and luxurious cork flooring not only provides a high-end finish to the suites, but also absorbs sound between units.
There is an electric fireplace in the living room, and the gourmet kitchens have concrete/granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.
Spa-inspired bathrooms include vessel sinks and stone vanities.
For the hard-working Bhimji, her ability to jump in a car and be in Canmore within an hour made the decision to buy there an easy one.
“I looked at lots of properties, but I knew Solara was the one.”
Now, when she relaxes in her suite on a weekend, looking out her window onto the peaks of the Three Sisters, “I know it is a blessing I have it.”
The natural exterior of stone and slate welcomes guests at the entrance to the five-star Solara Resort at Spa in Canmore.