Cottage resort dazzles
Sometimes you just know.
Ken Swenson has visited 137 countries in his work in the energy field. But it took only a few steps into the SookePoint Ocean Cottage Resort show suite to know that he had found his new home.
“We didn’t even get to the end of the carpet runner in the show home and we were ready to buy,” says Swenson. He and his wife Sue bought the third-floor cottage next door to the show home. It’s a two-bedroom unit, with almost 1,100 square feet, and 10-foot ceilings in the main room that make the most of the view across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic Peninsula.
The most important detail about the design for the Swensons?
“Just the ability to hang off a cliff and look at the wildlife,” he says.
SookePoint is an ocean cottage resort, located on a cloverleaf-shaped rocky peninsula on the southwest tip of Vancouver Island. It is next to East Sooke Park, a wilderness area with more than 50 kilometres of hiking trails. Michael and Roxanne Thornton bought the SookePoint land 20 years ago and have spent years developing and refining the development plan, achieving the required zoning and building access to Sooke’s water system.
The development offers a combination of types of property, from ocean cottages in threestorey buildings to apartment/ hotel-style units at Surfside Yacht Suites in a seven-storey concrete building. They are all situated around a planned village centre with retail and commercial space. Plans include two or three restaurants, conference and sports facilities, and a spa. Large single-family home estate lots — either with ocean front or ocean views — are located in the surrounding area.
Standing in the entrance hallway of the show suite, near the end of the carpet runner, gives an immediate sense of what the ocean cottages and yacht suites are all about. The view of the ocean, mountains and sky fills the great room. Depending on the time of day, the three blend together into a silvery brightness, inspiring a feeling of dreamy floating. In more dramatic weather, it provides a front-row seat for winter storm watching.
“The goal with our project is you don’t see the land (when you look out the windows),” says Michael Thornton.
And so the homes offer exceptional waterfront: they’re built seven metres above the water (more than double the tsunami wave potential calculated for the region) and set back five metres from the natural boundary of the sea, while Canada Pavilion, with its plans for a restaurant, are set back only one metre.
The homes are fronted with windows on the great room and kitchen, and have glass doors that fold all the way back to open onto prow-shaped glass-fenced decks, maximizing the feeling of indoor-outdoor living. They give the feeling of being on the deck of a cruise ship or sailboat, but with the steadiness of a firm land footing. The show home and its immediate neighbours overlook Orca Alley, a channel between the point and a small island where killer whales like to come and play as they pass by, where sea lions and other wildlife are a common and daily sight.
This chance to view wildlife is what caught government worker Jacquie McDonald’s attention.
“The whales,” says McDonald, when describing what initially brought her out to SookePoint and what has kept her interest. She and her partner Darren bought a one-bedroom home in the cottages.
And that front-row view of whales caught the imagination of a Winnipeg couple, too. They were touring building sites at SookePoint when two humpback whales swam into Moonlight Bay and played for a few hours. The couple bought all three floors in the cottage on the site from where they watched the whales, Thornton says.
What these buyers discovered is what American whale research scientist Kenneth Balcomb, founder of the Washington-based Center for Whale Research, has known for decades. Balcomb, whose research spans 40 years, requested a monitoring site at SookePoint to continue the work of the centre. It’s a spot he has come to often, as it offers an impressive vantage point for watching whales from land. The Southern Vancouver Island resident orca pods often move through the area, along with occasional visits from transient pods.
To this end, the Thorntons decided to donate space to set up a Canadian Centre for Whale Research, which will provide a prime spot for scientists to conduct land-based whale observations and other research activity, plus serve as an interpretive centre for the public to learn more about the marine mammals and their environment.
An intriguing “early warning” system will see hydrophones providing monitoring and broad- casting of underwater whale song, possibly with email alerts, too, so residents and guests have advance warning that whales are in the area.
About one-third of the first 70 buyers intend to live at SookePoint full-time, says Thornton. Joann Kief and Garth Anderson of Victoria, for instance, are downsizing from a large singlefamily house, with plans to share their time between their new condo and a new fifth-wheel trailer. Others intend to use their places as secondary homes and can earn resort rental income, with on-site management to handle bookings, check-in, cleaning and security. Owners can live at the resort full-time or part-time, while special destination resort zoning allows for overnight rental income. The development includes plans for a central village with an assortment of business on the first and second floors, with residential above.
The marina is a man-made lagoon — which is near completion — with a breakwater that includes zoning for docks with up to 115 boats, along with a clubhouse and pub.
Construction is underway on the first 25 suites in 10 buildings of ocean cottages, with possessions expected this summer. These three-storey buildings step down into the rocky sides of the peninsula, giving a low-profile feel at street level while providing privacy and views from each suite. Each building holds three single-floor units, which can also be purchased in pairs or threes to expand the home to a two-storey or three-storey arrangement, with sizes from 646-square-foot one-bedrooms to more than 1,300 square feet in a threebedroom suite. There are about 20 units remaining for sale of the 103 units in 37 buildings in the current phases.
Surfside Yacht Suites will be a concrete, seven-storey building of about 40 units that will launch sales in the next 60 to 90 days. The plans are flexible enough to be able to expand the size of units with an eye to providing enough space, but also being able to close off areas for rental purposes as needed. A central two-bedroom unit with a full kitchen could, for instance be linked by inside doors to two adjacent one-bedroom units without kitchens, to make a four-bedroom home all on one level. All units have hallway access, so suites can be locked off for rental use.