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Monday, January 21, 2013

Prime properties becoming ‘land banks’

MEAFORD, ONT.—An investment company with corporate headquarters in Singapore is buying up prime parcels of cottage/ski country real estate and turning them into “land banks” for foreign investors.

A2A Capital Management Inc., which also has offices in Malaysia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Texas and Toronto, has purchased nine properties for development in Ontario. They include four in the Collingwood region, two close to the Lake Huron shoreline, two in Middlesex County close to London, Ont., and one in the Niagara region.
The business model, called the “Land Enhancement Series,” is buy “raw land” at the pre-development stage and, in turn, sell segments of the property to raise capital to put together a development plan, apply for re-zoning, put in services, such as water and sewer, and road access. Investors get their money out when the property is developed.

A2A targets Asian investors, but says on its website that anyone of legal age can invest, except for Canadian residents. According to A2A, Canadians are not allowed to invest as, under Canadian law, such land purchases are considered “securities” in which only accredited or qualified investors can invest.
The largest project is Meaford Highlands Resort, which is slated for more than 1,000 homes, a 60-room hotel, a wellness centre, spa and golf academy. The 380-acre parcel is located about a 15-minute drive from Blue Mountain ski resort, 20 minutes from Collingwood.
Billed as “a healthy lifestyle community dedicated to wellness,”

Meaford Highlands Resort promises to promote “physical activity, psychological well-being and healthier lifestyles” for its residents.
According to documents at the Grey County land registry office, about 1,000 investors have shelled out amounts ranging from $10,000 to $200,000 for a stake in Meaford Highlands Resort, raising more than $17 million.

At a recent public meeting on the project, Meaford Chamber of Commerce President Shirley Keaveney said that she is excited about the project as it “signifies growth and will offer the community much-needed amenities.”
“It means jobs,” says Keaveney, adding that she had come to “listen and learn” about Meaford Highlands Resort, which she hopes will add a much-needed tax base to the municipality of about 11,000 residents,
Keaveny also noted that A2A executives have already become involved in the Meaford community, attending community events and fundraisers, and have made a donation to the fund to build a medical clinic in the town.
Meaford Highlands Resort is designed to promote healthy living with narrow streets to promote walking and cycling and plenty of biking and hiking trails, parks and about 132 acres of open space.
The homes will be a mix of villas, condominiums, detached homes and townhomes. According to a report filed with Grey County by Watson & Associates Economists, Meaford Highlands Resort will appeal to the baby boomer generation seeking recreational-based communities for retirement and semi retirement. The projection is that homes at Meaford Highlands Resort will range from $220,000 to $330,000.
“We will be offering homes that will be affordable, but not cheap,” said Jeff Peterson ,Vice President of Land Acquisition & Development at A2A, during a brief interview following the public meeting.
Peterson says that while million-dollar plus homes have been a hot segment of the real estate market in the Blue Mountain area, there is a pent-up demand for homes under $500,000 in the region. He also hopes the project will appeal to young families.

“I’ve looked at land across North America and when I saw this piece of land I knew that it was a very special place,” said Peterson, who previously worked in land development in Las Vegas, Nevada..

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