Talisman, What the Heck Happened Here?: Russ’ Rant for December 2012

Talisman, What the Heck Happened Here?
By Russell Severnuk

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As many of you already know, Talisman Mountain Resort located in the heart of the BeaverValley has been sitting dormant for the past year and half. Deteriorating at a rapid pace, there is much speculation as to the viability of returning her to the glory days she experienced back in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. For decades, Talisman was home to many skiers, golfers and weekend warriors from urban centres south of the area. Its mere existence was strong enough to encourage the development of a subdivision known as Amik, which eventually included full Municipal services. Still a weekend home to many families who visit the area on a regular basis year around, they can only wonder, what happened here?

Is this just another story of greed getting the better of the human race? It seems to support the theory. When we first moved our office from Meaford to Kimberley in 2000, in order to gain exposure for our Real Estate business, we thought Talisman would be a great place to drop in after work for cold beer and a little conversation with the locals. Heck, it was a public resort just like Blue Mountain and we used to frequent Jozo’s all the time after work and they welcomed the business. However, it seemed that Talisman operated under a different business model that did not welcome the local trade to spend their money having a drink or supporting the dining rooms and restaurants. Yes, we could buy a lift ticket or greens fee and use the cafeteria, but please do not enter the main hotel areas unless you were staying overnight in one of our rooms. What’s up with that? Well it turns out that if we didn’t use the facilities then the owner didn’t have to have paid staff on board and was able to just pocket the revenue with reduced expenses. It’s a great business model for the owner, but only the owner. So with very little re-investment into infrastructure for many years, the best plan by the mid 2000’s was to sell the resort, take the money and run. All that was needed was a buyer willing to bite on the hook.. Oh, but what’s the hook?

And so began another era for this wonderful diamond in the rough. Around 2005/2006, a group of investors came to the resort who found the NEC had given their approvals years ago to develop 300 condos amongst other structures. 300 condos! Wow, we could make millions here! Even after performing months of Due Diligences on the resort, the group moved forward hoping to take advantage of the foreseeable profits on 300 Condos. But the resort needed new chairlifts, snow making, a complete makeover on the golf course, as well as upgrading all the technology in the hotel and supporting buildings to make a viable resort to compete in this era. While in the thick of moving forward the investors ran smack dab into in to 2008 and the great recession! While investors, I’m told through the grapevine, dried up like a puddle in the Sahara desert and who could have ever foreseen this rather large inconvenience on such a global scale, there was also the red tape from the Municipality that help put the final nails in the coffin.

In March of 2010 the doors were locked, everyone was let go from their jobs and the resort allowed to begin the latest chapter in what looks to be a very sad story. With no hydro to the property, the pumps failed to pump the water out of the basement until a property manager was hired to try and keep the value of the resort infrastructure up. Multiple companies tried to sell the resort on behalf of the owners but to no avail. The word was on the street, don’t buy the resort at that price, wait until the Municipality sells it for back Taxes. And so it sat until September of this year when finally the courts approved the tax sale and the Municipality started the process.

We are now about to embark on what could be another chapter in the life of Talisman, as December 13, 2012 is the last date set to submit closed bids to purchase the property out of tax arrears. Again, speculation is high on what could Talisman possibly become. We’ve heard it could be purchased by a large hotel chain to bring it back to its glory. We’ve heard it could be purchased and converted into a school, a spa, a sports training facility, an old age home. We’ve even heard it could be bought and turned back into vacant land. At the time of writing this rant, no one knows what will become of Talisman. The existing owners still have the legal right to redeem their debt and keep ownership. If they do, then what? Will it go back up on the market? If so, then for how long? Maybe try to forge ahead on the 300 Condos? The recession is calming and investor confidence is beginning to return. Could that be a possibility?

I don’t know about you, but I’m very interested in the outcome of this once famous resort. And what tops my list are the jobs that it could provide, the increased property values for home owners and the notoriety to the municipality and the overall economy that could be boosted by the return of Talisman Mountain Resort. Please stand by, this could be a very exciting ride!

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