Nova Scotia’s Forest Lakes development sees big up-tick in visits from Europe following Brexit

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As featured in The Chronicle Herald.

In the shakey wake of Brexit, more European investors are eyeing the resort community being built by Terra Firma Development Corporation.

“It’s been incredible because they’re looking for a safe place to invest” Kristi Wenaus, Terra Firma’s vice-president of sales and marketing, said Tuesday.

“We’ve been seeing more people coming to Forest Lakes Country Club in each of the past three months than during any other month in the past two years. They’re embracing our financial stability and our culture,” she said.

Britons voted on June 23 to leave the European Union, the economic and political union of 28 countries, and triggered economic uncertainty at home. Within weeks, the British pound dropped to a 31-year low and the Bank of England noted risks to the country’s financial system had begun to crystallize.

Two property funds with combined assets of £6.2 billion barred withdrawals as nervous investors began to ask for their money back.

Now, Terra Firma’s sales and marketing vice-presidents says that money is starting to flow into Canada.

Although Colliers International’s Greg Taylor, the commercial realtor’s vice president and managing director in Atlantic Canada, said Tuesday he has not personally seen evidence of skittish European investors wanting to place their money in Canada as a result of Brexit, he said it could be happening.

“The uncertainty in that market may certainly be leading investors to look around and be interested in the relative sanity of the Canadian market,” he said.

The Forest Lakes Country Club, located about 50 kilometres northwest of Halifax off the Lakelands Evangeline Trail, is a development with more than 1,700 acres and a projected value of more than $1 billion once it is entirely built out in a couple of decades, said Wenaus.

There are now three neighbourhoods under development on the property, in addition to that, there are an undisclosed number of investment lots in areas of the property which are as yet unserviced. Wenaus said buyers or prospective buyers have made commitments of various kinds on 200 of the lots and the development is right on schedule.

“Our first residents will be moving in at Christmastime or in the spring,” she said.

Sales in Forest Lakes started two years ago with a marketing campaign targeted to international investors in Europe. Then, last year, the company began selling to local, North American buyers.

“The plan was to build a base with the international market and then continue with the local market,” said Wenaus.

The resort community already features a boathouse and community garden and bonfire areas as well as roughly 10 kilometres of trails for horseback riding, cycling, walking and running. Work on a golf course is underway with plans to have it playable in two years. An equestrian centre is planned for the following year. And a village centre, complete with a hotels, commercial space, and a family entertainment centre featuring a pool, waterslide, laser tag and bowling, is envisioned by 2021.

With its development spread over 20 years, Terra Firma isn’t yet committing to the form of housing which will be built in other areas of the property.

“If we find in the future that apartments and condos are what is selling, we will look at that,” said Wenaus.

Terra Firma Development Corp. is owned by brothers Halifax resident and company president Bradley Marr and founding partner Donald Marr.