The Toronto Sun • Feb. 19, 2016 • by Neil Sharma
COLLINGWOOD, Ont.- Collingwood has long satisfied Torontonians’ desires for bucolic respite from blaring horns, incessant sirens and gridlocked traffic but a recent trend has emerged- many have decided to stay and aren’t coming back.
That’s because Torontonians are cashing out – and making a pretty penny in the process – and buying properties in and around Collingwood.
More than a place to retire, the town is attracting people of all ages in large part because it’s cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit.
“I think it’s been happening gradually for quite a period of time. It’s picked up steam in last 10 years as boomers move into that age,” says Collingwood councilor Kevin Lloyd. “As that has evolved, the youth have also started to take interest in moving here.”
Last year, the Canadian Federation oflndependent Business (CFIB) listed Collingwood fifth overall and third among mid-sized cities – and the only Ontarian burgh in the top lO – for entrepreneurship in Canada. The influx is slowly driving up property prices, although it’s far from unaffordable.
“Downtown Collingwood is hotter than a pistol. It’s a convenience thing,” said Lloyd. “Downtown Collingwood is hot, hot, hot in the real estate market. As in Toronto, they buy little places, tear them down and build their own structures. But young people are also moving here because of the lifestyle. They can operate their businesses from here, and everything is at their disposal so their families can enjoy their lifestyles and everything else.”
While Collingwood is a paradise for outdoors enthusiasts, it’s also nurturing homegrown art. Myriad murals decorate the town’s alleyways off Hurontario St., the town’s main artery.
The Tremont building, located just off the main street, is catalyzing Collingwood’s burgeoning arts culture. Above its trendy ground-level cafe are several studio spaces rented to artists. The town is also home to the largest Elvis festival outside of Memphis, which attracted roughly 118,000 Elvis impersonators last year.
An abundance of physiotherapists, health consultants and performance coaches, among others, have set up shop in town. The Business Development Centre (BDC) is playing a critical role attracting entrepreneurs, and it’s doing so by collaborating closely with town council through a sound economic action plan.
The BDC is a collaboration between the Town of Collingwood Marketing & Business Development, the Business Improvement Area and the Small Business Enterprise Centre.
The gradual inflow of residents is spurring residential developments that incorporate Collingwood’s scenic elements into their designs -like Blue Fairway by MacPherson Master Builders. Townhomes, including a sold out bungalow loft design, and two-storey towns – designed like chalets, border the Atoka Cranberry Golf Course and the sprawling Georgian Trail.
“There’s a walking and bike trail and they run side by side,” says MacPherson’s general manager, Lynn Pasquale. “They run through Collingwood and run right through our subdivision. This is a huge offering for our buyers because a lot of them are retired – and this is in addition to our ski hills. It’s also minutes away from Cranberry Resort Marina for boating enthusiasts.”
While some Blue Fairway residents are seasonal vacationers, Pasquale says a substantial number are Torontonians who have sold their homes and permanently moved north.
“Retirees from Toronto are selling their houses, downsizing and moving permanently to Collingwood. Some come to ski for the winter and others are young and come to raise their families here,” she said. “We’re appealing to everyone.”
Back on Hurontario St., specialty stores like those found on West Queen West are sprouting. One Love, an ecosustainable clothing and jewelry store, is a Bohemian delight, importing items from Nepal, Guatemala and Mexico, and is a testament to the changes taking place in Collingwood.
“The environment here is very conducive to new business. it’s the top one in Ontario,” said Carolina D’Andrea, One Love’s owner. “You drive around and see very unique small businesses. A lot of local business is benefitting from a lot of movement and traffic in this area. You can take risks you may not typically take in small towns.”
The Blue Mountains Tea Company, a loose tea leaf store only a few doors away from One Love, and operational since December, is Collingwood’s answer to David’s Tea.
“It’s a positive thing for the town,” says employee Bridget Weinstein. “People used to drive to Barrie to David’s Tea, but now they’re coming here.”