Investment in Consecon signals revival of hope for County’s ‘forgotten’ hamlet
Consecon is a jewel of a small town— of this there is little debate among those who live there, or have occasioned through. Though faded, and a bit hollowed out at its centre, the hamlet, nevertheless, has always been defined by its natural beauty—Lake Consecon behind it, Weller’s Bay running along one side and a lazy, picturesque river flowing between, coursing through the spine of the town before spilling over the falls at the mill and meandering toward the bay.
A decision several decades ago now, to route the Loyalist Parkway around Consecon, rather than through it, proved a fateful mistake. Likely intended as a means to protect residents and homeowners from the noise and nuisance of summertime traffic—that decision ultimately sent Consecon on a decades-long decline. Main street businesses left first, as potential customers whizzed past toward Wellington, Bloomfield and Picton—oblivious to Consecon and its charms. Without an economic centre, there was little incentive to invest—to rebuild or reinvent the village—though many have surely dreamed of Consecon’s renewal.
Add to that the sense held by many, that Consecon isn’t visible from Shire Hall— that it is regularly overlooked in municipal decision-making and expenditures. A feeling magnified by the fact that half of the hamlet resides in Hillier ward (formerly township), half in Ameliasburgh ward. Residents feel Consecon has been neglected by both.
Consecon’s time, however, may have arrived. Outsiders are beginning to make serious investments in this hamlet—betting the time is right for Consecon to join the economic growth blossoming across Prince Edward County.
One of these investors is Mark McLean. He acquired the mill in Consecon a few months ago.
It was operated as the Cascades Bar and Grill for several years. But this massive and historic complex of buildings nestled along the water’s edge in the middle of the hamlet always suggested much greater potential.
McLean sensed it very soon after buying a summer home nearby 13 years ago. When the mill came up for sale over the winter, he snapped it up. McLean imagines the emergence of another major County destination for this property—a celebrated restaurant, elegant and unique accommodations combined with compelling pop-up retail and event space.
He is the vision guy. He intends to invest in the property—to improve the exterior appeal, the grounds, landscaping and such. Meanwhile he is actively recruiting chefs, accommodation providers, retailers and special event managers and wedding planners in order to shape renovations and changes to their needs.
McLean comes to the project with decades of real estate experience. He is a realtor and the former head of the Toronto Real Estate Board. He currently heads a start-up firm Property.ca Realty—among the first companies in Canada seeking to mine data, big and otherwise, to help buyers and sellers make better decisions.
Mark’s wife, Virginie Martocq, is an interior designer and former home editor at Chatelaine magazine. Together they’ve faithfully restored their summer home on Lake Consecon.
McLean sees immense potential in Consecon, the overlooked jewel, and hopes the restoration and revitalization of the mill property will act as a catalyst to further growth and renewal.
A mill has likely stood on this location since before Confederation. The current mill building, however, probably dates to the 1920s when it was known as the Consecon Feed & Farm Supplies Company. The massive structure soars four storeys above the dams—water power driving the workings of the mill.
Despite years of slinging beer and burgers, it is the sweet aroma of milled grain that still permeates the now-empty timber frame building. A weighing scale has become part of the heavy wooden floor. Below, many of the gears and pulleys that milled grain into flour or feed remain where they stopped. Left behind. Waiting to turn again.
There are several outbuildings, the largest of which is believed to be the former train station— moved to this location to serve as feed and grain storage.
McLean has plenty of praise for the last owner, Nick Livingston. Under Livingston’s tenure significant investments were made to insulate the building, provide access to upper floors, plumbing and electrical as well as a installing sprinklers throughout.
“He clearly had a vision for this place,” said McLean.
This frees McLean to focus initially on the exterior— landscaping the property, roofing, siding, defining parking and erecting fencing around the perimeter. And marketing the property to potential tenants.
He expects this work to be done this year, and thus enabling tenants to renovate over the winter, with a view to unveiling the revitalized Consecon Mill in spring of 2018.
Consecon seems poised to shine again.