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Storied Grouse Nest resort on Vancouver Island listed at $6.98 million

Oceanfront resort in Sooke has hosted movie stars such as John Wayne
Gillispie Top_Grouse Nest00.jpg
The 84-acre property was developed nearly 100 years ago, and has several incarnations since.

The owners of Sooke’s storied Grouse Nest resort have put it back on the market at $6.98 million in the hopes of attracting a buyer to develop the 84-acre waterfront property.

A new promotion describes Grouse Nest at Atwater Landing as a “spectacular oceanfront sub-dividable estate” in protected Sooke Harbour. Grouse Nest is located on a point, surrounded on three sides by water.

By asking $6.98 million, Ron Neal, who is marketing the property, is hoping to attract competing bidders. Offers will be accepted to July 15.

Grouse Nest had been listed with another company previously. It had been listed at $15 million in December 2016 and at $12.5 million last year, but did not sell.

The main issues are obtaining access to sufficient water and to sewer services required for a development, Neal said. Upgrading to the building will be needed, given its “deferred maintenance.”

Sooke’s official community plan “supports medium-density mixed-use development, offering many opportunities and possibilities for this property, including the addition of a marina,” he said. The property is zoned commercial and permitted uses include a hotel, brew pub, marina and offices.

Kurt Bohn lives at Grouse Nest and co-owns it with Mike Ryan of California. They acquired the property 15 years ago.

Bohn thinks the time is right to sell, pointing to such factors as road improvements in the area and the number of people moving into the capital region.

He is also keen to move to Whistler to spend more time with his son.

Facts and rumours have swirled around Grouse Nest, at 1424 Gillespie Rd., for decades. Its over-the-top decor, movie-star visits and international owners all added to its mystique.

The 15,000-square-foot, Swiss-style lodge features a dome in the ceiling covered in gold leaf paint, a seal-skin covered bar, a malachite bar from the Middle East, five massive fireplaces, 26 bathrooms and guest rooms, said Bohn.

A 1985 promotional package listing the property for auction noted: “Craftsmen were brought in from Europe in the early 1960s to create a luxury setting in keeping with the surroundings …”

Movie stars John Wayne and Lorne Greene stayed at Grouse Nest, Bohn said, adding he has heard that “some of the Rat Pack stayed here back in the day.”

Grouse Nest was developed by Victoria financier George Gillespie, who built a summer home for his family in the 1920s. New owners in the 1930s converted it into a resort. It was destroyed by fire in 1950, according to a 2011 development plan for the property.

The resort was rebuilt and operated as a commercial resort for a decade. It changed hands when a corporation that appeared to be led by Swiss interests took it over. Financial and legal difficulties led to large sales of lands over time, the development plan said. Efforts to redevelop the site have not been successful, although studies have been done and a neighourhood plan was drawn up.

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