Pinestone Resort owners purchase Wigamog Inn
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | March 10, 2016
The Aurora family has added another property to its portfolio.
This time it's the historic Wigamog Inn – a landmark that was once the county's top tourism destination, but has been sitting vacant for more than five years. The Auroras plan to breathe new life into the resort and open part of it this summer.
The family, who purchased Pinestone Resort & Conference Centre last August, announced the news last Friday.
"We wished to have the Wigamog so we could put it [and the Pinestone] all together," said Vince Aurora. "It will give better support to tourism and to the economy of the town."
Located off County Road 21, just a few minutes from downtown Haliburton, Pinestone has trail access to the Wigamog property, which faces Lake Kashagawigamog.
"We're also looking at using the Wigamog site as our leisure waterfront for the resort," added John Teljeur, general manager of the Pinestone.
They plan on re-establishing Moose Bar & Grill, a restaurant that overlooks the lake. It, along with some rooms, could open mid-summer.
Last April, The Highlander reported that local landscaper, Gary Bouwmeister, had purchased the 41-acre property, which includes several cottage rental units, playgrounds and other amenities. However, the sale didn't close, and it went back on the market, according to real estate agent Linda Baumgartner of The Haliburton Real Estate Team.
The property was listed for $800,000, but Aurora wouldn't reveal what he paid.
"It will close in a few months," he said.
Until that time, it is hard for Aurora to comment about renovations or rebuilding, he said. A full assessment must first be completed before those decisions can be made.
"The big thing is we're going to try to protect as much of the historical value of Wigamog," said Teljeur. "But the reality is that it's a new chapter for that property."
After receiving a tour of the property and doing a "quick assessment," Teljeur said it appears the building that houses the restaurant is in good shape, but the main lodge is in disrepair.
He believes the main building has been around since the 1900s.It is unknown whether the Auroras will rename the property. It's also too early to tell just how many jobs will be created, but Teljeur estimates it could employ as many as 10 to 20 people if it opens this summer.
"Hopefully more," said Aurora.
In its heyday, back in the 1980s, Teljeur recalls 60 to 100 people were employed by the resort. A rumour circulating in those days was that the Wigamog was interested in buying the Pinestone, he said.
The Auroras became interested in Wigamog after purchasing Pinestone. Teljeur recommended they take a look at it.
"It's the waterfront, number one," said Aurora, speaking about the property. "I think what I love most is putting the two [resorts] together in one."
The Auroras also announced they will start building a plaza with a gas station and touchless car wash this spring near the Pinestone. Located adjacent to County Road 21, the space will eventually be home to a chemical-free drycleaners, restaurant and a medical facility.
A dilapidated building currently occupies the space, which was once the site of Bennett Motors. The demolition of the building will begin in April, said Teljeur.
Aurora said it would be May or June before the gas station is running.
"We're going to have a coffee shop ... it's been decided, but we still can't say it yet," he said.
An artist's rendering on a sign front of the Bennett Motors site shows three separate buildings. The spaces will be leased to individuals who will operate the businesses.
As for the medical facility, the family is looking at filling current needs that aren't being met.
"The idea is to try to help the community by providing a facility that brings in a service like [diagnostic imaging, for example]," said Teljeur.
Preliminary discussions have taken place with Haliburton Highlands Health Services, the County of Haliburton and the Haliburton County Development Corporation to get a better sense of what the priorities should be, he said.
Other family members include Aurora's son, Ravi and wife, Sumita. Their company, Aurora Hotel Group, also owns the Four Points by Sheraton in Brantford and the Holiday Inn Express and Suites Huntsville.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.