Real Estate

The sale of 100+ acres of Lake Ontario could change the future of Pickering’s waterfront

Aerial view of Pickering's Frenchman's Bay Screenshot from YouTube Video/Connor O'Prey

Most prospective cottage owners are in search of a rare slice of waterfront heaven—well, how about 167 acres of it, for a cool $60 million?

That’s what a listing in Pickering, Ont., promised, where 133 acres of Frenchman’s Bay—and 34 acres of the Lake Ontario section it feeds into—are up for sale. The listing has since been taken down though we’ve been unable to confirm if the property has sold. The unique listings have attracted interest from multiple groups including developers. However, it’s anyone’s guess who might buy the coveted properties. 

The City of Pickering has publicly expressed interest in purchasing 600 Liverpool and has called on both the provincial and federal governments to help with funding. According to listing agent Jim Kelly, this could be a good move, as there will be a considerable amount of work needed for development. He also noted the need for environmental monitoring. “Environmental students, universities, fisheries, could all get involved,” he said. 

Over the past few days, a group of Pickering residents have also gone public with their desire to buy the bay, stating that the land should be protected for its “ecological significance and cultural value.” “Instead of allowing it to become another concrete jungle, with floating houses already mocked up, we want to extend and enhance the community space that benefits all residents and future generations,” the group said in a statement on their website

Most of Canada’s lakes are owned by the federal government, so to have one on the market is unheard of. But Frenchman’s Bay is bound by a charter dating back to 1853, when Queen Victoria signed a deed to incorporate the Pickering Harbour Company, which included ownership of land under the bay. The bay was landlocked until the mid-1800s and a canal was dug to create a channel between the bay and Lake Ontario.

That charter has proved ironclad through multiple challenges over the years and would transfer to the new owner, says Kelly.

A map of the land for sale at 591 and 600 Liverpool Rd. in Pickering, Ont. Screenshot from YouTube Video/Connor O’Prey

The area is currently used by the public for recreation and includes various homes, shops, and restaurants on the shorefront. Kelly sees this as an opportunity to revitalize the area, with anything from a much-needed parking garage to floating vacation properties, similar to nearby Friday Harbour on Lake Simcoe. “It’s an amazing opportunity to take this blank canvas and say, what would benefit all citizens in the area?” he says. 

A large banquet facility is included in the main listing, at 600 Liverpool Road; an adjacent waterfront area, 591 Liverpool Road, is listed at $20 million and has commercial zoning.

In the past, high-rise residential towers have been proposed at 591 Liverpool, but the plan didn’t make it past initial consultations. Kelly says regardless of the new owner, he believes a similar proposal probably won’t pass, but a floating home community could be viable, such as what’s seen in places like the Netherlands and Seattle. “You’re not disturbing the bottom of the bay, but you can have your own dock,” Kelly says. He points out that there are already people who live full-time in their boats on Frenchman’s Bay.

Floating homes have caused some controversy in cottage country recently as they have been proven to skirt municipal bylaws when situated on Crown-controlled waterways. Among the concerns raised by the municipalities and lake associations are the environmental impact and lack of accountability to a township for taxes and municipal services. It’s unclear how a floating home community would play out in Pickering given the land under the water is zoned as residential.

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