July 31, 2013

Ponderosa offers a taste of nature and luxury

Joint venture helped save Okanagan community that had been devastated by fires

The Trails

Project location: 4000 Ponderosa Place, Peachland
Project size/scope: 69 two- and three-bedroom townhomes in 17 buildings on a seven-acre bench above the Okanagan town of Peachland. 3.5 hrs. to Vancouver.
Prices: Two bedroom and den (1301 sq. ft) $299,000; 2 bedroom (1239 sq. ft) from $309,000-$329,000; 2 bedroom walkout rancher (1,567 sq. ft/) $375,000-$469,000; 3 bedroom (1430-1932 sq. ft) from $399,000 to $525,000.
Strata fees: from $161 to $253 monthly
Contact: Julia Debolt
Telephone: 250-864-2400
Email: info@ponderosaliving.ca
Builder and developer: Ponderosa Peachland Development LP
Architect: New Town Architecture, Kelowna
Interior Design: Ponderosa Peachland Development LP
Presentation Centre: #64 5500 Clement Crescent, 12 noon to 5 p.m. daily. Show Home Address: 4000 Ponderosa Place, 12-5 p.m. daily
Occupancy: October 2013, with all units completed by July 2014

special to the Sun

It isn’t often that a developer can lay claim to saving a town but through some luck and timing, Richmond-based Treegroup Inc.’s Ponderosa development played just that role last fall.

The 400-acre residential development was in the midst of shaping the golf course at the centre of the new community when winds and dry conditions whipped a nearby forest fire into a raging inferno, forcing the rapid evacuation of 1,500 people from the west Okanagan Lake town of Peachland, 380 kilometres east of Vancouver.

As it turned out, the logging and excavating for the golf course’s ninth hole saved the day, says Peachland Mayor Keith Fielding. “It acted as a firebreak,” Fielding said this week. “If that excavated area had not been in place, the fire would have come up the ravine and crossed over to the major section of town and would have been significantly more dangerous.”

Even before last fall’s fire, the new community called Ponderosa had been yielding benefits to the tiny lakeside town of 5,000 located about 30 minutes south of Kelowna. The $1-billion development is the brainchild of Treegroup, which has been developing real estate in Metro Vancouver, the B.C. Interior and Washington State for 25 years. It is proving to be one of the best things to ever happen to Peachland.

Ironically, it was another fire in October 2005 that destroyed the much-loved Ponderosa golf course clubhouse and hastened Peachland’s entry into an new era of residential development and resort amenities. Previous developers had proposed building a subdivision in the area on a much smaller parcel of land. However, Peachland rejected their plans because it didn’t include developing the homes and resurrecting the golf course, so important to the district’s tourism and economic development.

Treegroup stepped in and began to assemble sufficient land to do both. In 2009, it reached an innovative Crown land deal with the Westbank First Nation that made the First Nation a joint venture partner and gave Ponderosa the critical mass it needed — about 400 acres in total — to proceed with the phased development.

At the centre of Ponderosa is a 7,100-yard golf course designed by Australian golfing legend Greg Norman. Ponderosa’s first phase is a collection of 69 two- and three-bedroom townhomes grouped around the fourth hole. Most of the homes will have views of Lake Okanagan, says Keith Funk, who led his firm New Town Architecture’s creation of a master plan for the new residential community wrapped around Pincushion Mountain above the town.

“We needed to work in such a way that the real estate, which pays for the golf course, supported but didn’t undermine the value of the course, say by encroaching on the fairways,” said Funk, a former city planner for the cities of Calgary and Kelowna.

Sales of the Craftsman-style homes, designed by Funk’s partner Patrick McCusker, have been brisk, with more than two thirds of them being snapped up in the past several months. The townhomes feature nine-foot or higher ceilings, expansive decks and patios, Whirlpool stainless steel appliances with an option to upgrade to KitchenAid or Viking, and granite countertops in the kitchens and bathrooms. In the main living areas are wide-plank engineered floors and Napoleon gas fireplaces with stone surrounds. A bonus is that all homes have the option of economical geo-thermal heating and cooling.

The Trails is the first phase of the Ponderosa master plan that includes a mix of different housing types. Eventually, the new community will expand to more than 2,400 homes, effectively doubling Peachland’s population of 5,000 over the next 20 years. Clearing has already begun for the next phase called The Pines, a collection of 130 single family homes overlooking the soon-to-be developed village centre, next to the golf clubhouse.

The village will include a skating plaza, an amphitheatre, commercial buildings and a hotel, said Funk. The skating rink will convert to a market during the summer months. Also part of the village is a two-acre winery and destination restaurant that will feature wine tastings. Funk says affordable housing is a significant social issue in the Okanagan and Ponderosa’s master plan requires 10 per cent of all the housing fit within an affordable housing package.

“It is based on 80 per cent of the median income in the Okanagan,” said Funk. “If you are a family earning in the mid-$50,000 range, we have a housing product for you.” Many of the buyers come from the Okanagan Valley, Metro Vancouver and Alberta, says sales spokeswoman Julia Debolt. Among them are John and Maureen Goodrick, who recently purchased a 1,932-square-foot three bedroom unit with a view of the lake.

“We’re in the process of a change in lifestyle and we’re trying to downsize our lives,” Goodrick said. “We own a home in Maple Ridge and we own a home in Indio, Calif. What we wanted was a lock-and-leave situation in British Columbia where we can go south in the winter.” He and Maureen were attracted to the architecture and interior design touches of the Ponderosa townhouse.

“We don’t like a home to be chopped up into little rooms, and alcoves and cubby holes. It’s a very open design. You can sit in the great room and almost converse with anyone anywhere in the house.” Straddling Highway 97, Peachland is well-situated to reach any of the numerous amenities for which the valley is famous, including skiing at Apex Alpine, Silver Star and Big White, wineries north and south, public beaches and good trout fishing in a chain of local lakes.

Fielding notes that Ponderosa, along with another planned development, has come along at a critical point. “If we didn’t have these (developments), just to maintain our existing services we would have had to triple our taxes,” he said. Instead, Peachland is looking forward to using the new amenity fund to pay for a variety of additional services including — to no one’s surprise — new fire trucks.

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