John Cathrae holds up a photo of a retirement residence similar to what his group is proposing to build on the former site of Sauble Beach Amusements on Saturday, April 27, 2019 in Sauble Beach, Ont. Scott Dunn/The Owen Sound Sun Times/Postmedia Network
Retirement residence development company executive John Cathrae announced Saturday he wants to build a 90- to 100-unit retirement residence and townhomes on the dilapidated 13-acre former Sauble Beach Amusement Park site.He said he’d like to have all approvals in place by year’s end and to start construction by next year. He promised 40 to 50 full- and part-time jobs for the community once the two-storey residence opens.There’s a lot that needs to happen before it’s built, including receiving an official plan amendment from Bruce County and municipal zoning changes, and provincial approvals for a wastewater treatment plant Cathrae’s group intends to build.Until he gets those approvals, the conditional agreement to purchase the property will not close said Cathrae, whose parents Ted and Fran Cathrae opened Country Lane retirement home in Chatsworth and operated another home in Owen Sound years ago.He said property owner Fred Robertson is supporting the venture, which Cathrae, his daughter Sarah Cathrae, and Aurele Simourd, a business partner in many other senior living ventures across Canada, are starting a new company to pursue. The agreement with Robertson was signed last week.More than 100 people turned out to see what the announcement was about, many likely thinking new life would be breathed into the rundown amusement park site, an eyesore which saw its last customer seven years ago.
The old Sauble Beach Amusement Park slide, part of 13 acres conditionally sold for seniors housing announced on Saturday, April 27, 2019 in Sauble Beach, Ont. Scott Dunn/The Owen Sound Sun Times/Postmedia Network
Scott Dunn /
Scott Dunn/Sun Times
But that was never in the cards, South Bruce Peninsula Mayor Janice Jackson told the crowd from makeshift stage by the “Fun Spot” amusement park building. With just two summer months to earn back the millions it would take to re-open it, the idea was a nonstarter, she said.She got Cathrae interested in redeveloping the site, they both said. Jackson first introduced the idea to him of putting seniors housing there three years ago.Cathrae, the chief financial officer at Sussex Retirement Living, a seniors housing developer, said when first Jackson asked, the demographics weren’t right but now they are.Seniors capable of independent living, as well as some needing care, will be accommodated in the new seniors’ community, he said. He said there are enough seniors around who can afford to live in a seniors residence now.The project will let people who want to live the rest of their lives at Sauble but can’t remain in their homes to continue to stay in the community. He’s aiming at the 75-plus demographic.At the announcement, Cathrae held up a photo of a residence built in Chesterville, in Eastern Ontario, to give people an idea of what the Sauble residence could look like. But nothing is decided yet, he said, other than it will have two storeys and balconies.Cathrae said he’d like to make the development fit with the Sauble area. Construction of the main residence alone will cost in the $15 to $20 million range, he said.He said he anticipates local governments will support the project and that provincial approvals may take the most time. He encouraged anyone who wishes to write a letter of support for the project to do so. He’d also like input on the features people would like to see in the residence, the size and types of suites.A news release about the project said the amusement park site is perfect for seniors. Its proximity to medical offices, a library and community centre opposite the site, and its walking distance to the beach strip are good for the project.Jackson is enthusiastic about turning the old amusement park site into something better.“In my nine years of working for the town, this has been the biggest complaint that I’ve received on a constant basis,” she said after the announcement. “People were just disheartened with the deterioration of this park.”“I have been cold-calling developers for four years. And he bought a cottage down close to me. And so when I first met him, I asked him what do you do for a living, John? And he told me and I almost fell over.“And I said well come here, have I got a property to show you.”Jackson said she anticipates council will give Cathrae the approvals he needs and she can help move the official plan amendment along as a member of county council.Deb Ellis, who recently retired with her husband to Sauble and came out to hear the announcement, said she suspected many who turned out at the old amusement park thought that a new amusement park would be announced.But she’s keen on the idea of having a seniors’ community there, she said.