Georgina's The Briars resort seeking real estate investor

Tuesday Jun 07th, 2016


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Georgina Advocate


After six generations of operating what has become the iconic Jackson’s Point resort, The Briars, the Sibbald family announced Friday it has launched an international search for an investor.

The family is open to a variety of options, including partnership or a partial or full sale, vice-president and general manager Hugh Sibbald said, adding it is the family’s intent to go with the option that best benefits the investor, owners and the community.

“We’ve got this fabulous property that has been family owned since 1878 and we think it’s time to step up our game,” Sibbald said, adding investment is needed to bring in some new facilities and public attractions to the property. It is already well recognized as a four-star resort, spa and conference centre with almost 100 units in an historic inn, lodges and private cottages, as well as a private 18-hole golf course and 1,500 feet of Lake Simcoe shoreline.

“While we’ve loved building and managing The Briars, now is the perfect time to open the door to opportunity with the 404 bringing Toronto to our doorstep, the hospitality industry bouncing back and land values in Georgina growing,” he added.

The family has been quietly looking for an investor for the past three years and working with the town on some ideas and plans, but it hasn’t garnered the “right fit” to date, Sibbald explained.

As a result, Colliers International Hotel Investment, Sales and Advisory Services, with offices in the Middle East, Asia and North and South America was brought on board to handle the international search.

“We will go as far as we have to go to find the right investors to come in who share our passion for the community, for the property and to bring their own ideas and their own innovation,” Sibbald said.

“And money,” Barbara Sibbald said frankly, adding “it is a new world out there and we do not have the deep pockets ourselves to bring this forward.”

While Sibbald acknowledged the news may shock those with fears of the historic and iconic property being bulldozed to make way for a large-scale commercial or housing development, he said that is not the case.

“We would have sold already if it were,” he said, adding the inn and Peacock House also have heritage designations.

It is, instead, about finding an investor who shares the same passion and same enchantment from the surroundings as guests do, who wants to build on that to create an even better Briars experience.

“Everything good that has happened here has come from a passion to make it so and a respect for the past, the community and the future. That passion is what we hope to find in an investor. With that passion and with smarts and access to investment money, the next steps at The Briars will be as awesome as the last ones,” he said, adding his dad, John, never wanted to create a museum.

“He wanted a living, breathing, growing business that continually expands.”

That is actually a salient point to the property’s entire history.

From the time Captain Bourchier built The Briars in 1840 until today, the property has served its owners and the community in different ways.

It has re-invented itself from a decades-old working farm and livestock operation; to John Sibbald’s vision of natural beauty and environmental stewardship.

The Briars original property now offers a superb golf course, a cottage community and has provided an oasis for culture, recreation and hospitality.

It recently added a spa facility and a focus on organic food, fitness and wellness.

It has always been a property of change, from the time it was home to a dairy with 90 trucks to when Sibbald’s grandparents built cottages and the golf course, followed by opening year-round and two expansions after that.

It had always had a tradition prior to that, however, of hosting parties and bringing in guests for events.

The possibility of a conference centre, entertainment venue or a brewery as potential options moving forward, especially for the vacant Red Barn lands backing on to Dalton Road, were raised.

In addition, The Briars continues to make major improvements to the resort, such as a new dock and renovated pool areas. More upgrades are also planned for the future.

“It’s always been a property of change, but the heart of The Briars is always the same. The passion for the ecology and for the lake and for the property and for the community, for our staff and our guests, that has always been there,” Sibbald said.

“This is an amazingly complex business with many moving parts. That’s one of the reasons why we chose Colliers. Colliers has a particular specialty with properties like the Briars that are seeking successors or partners. When you go into something like this, you really don’t know what doors will open, whether it is a partnership or sale, that’s why we want to take the time to do it right and choose the right investor with the best approach and the best philosophy.”

This is a tremendous opportunity for Georgina in terms of bringing in investment, he added.

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