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Great Gulf Group heightens focus on resorts, leisure sector

Names Jay Wong to head division and oversee developments in Ontario, Vermont

Artist's concept of a pool area at Great Gulf Group's proposed development in Killington, Vt. (Courtesy Great Gulf Group)
Artist's concept of a pool area at Great Gulf Group's proposed development in Killington, Vt. (Courtesy Great Gulf Group)

Great Gulf Group is putting a larger focus on its resorts and leisure division and recently appointed Jay Wong to head the group in the newly created position of president.

Wong joined Toronto-headquartered Great Gulf Group from Exclusive Resorts, a members-only luxury travel club where he was executive vice-president of operations and member experience. 

Wong previously formed the Americas portfolio management team at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and held leadership roles across strategy, brand and operations at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, which was acquired by Marriott International in 2015.

While Wong has been more active in hospitality operations than development, he had experience with Four Seasons in aligning different stakeholders involved with the company's development pipeline.

The San Francisco native also served on Exclusive Resorts’ real estate and investment committees.

The next frontier for Great Gulf Group

“Great Gulf has been on my radar for a while because it’s a company that is so focused on innovation, thinking outside the box and thinking about doing things differently,” Wong told RENX, adding that he sees resorts and leisure as the “next frontier” for the company.

“This opportunity bridges that world between traditional hospitality operations and real estate development. I think it was a perfect fit for me and it felt like a win-win because I felt like I can bring a whole new set of capabilities to Great Gulf.”

Great Gulf Group and its affiliate companies have major projects spanning the entire real estate spectrum in Canada and the United States.

Within its resorts portfolio, Great Gulf Group owns Taboo Muskoka on Lake Muskoka near Gravenhurst, Ont. It also has plans for two new developments near Collingwood, Ont., and another in Killington, Vt.

“We now have a pipeline of between 5,000 and 6,000 units that are squarely in the resort residential space,” Wong said.

Killington acquisition and development

Great Gulf Group closed on the $43-million acquisition of the Vermont site from SP Land Co. last May.

It will develop a 1,095-acre ski village and luxury resort community, with ski-in/ski-out residences, in the shadow of the 4,241-foot Killington Peak in the heart of a popular ski and mountain adventure area. 

The Town of Killington is involved with creating municipal infrastructure for the development, including a water system and improved roads. That work began in October and is expected to take two years to complete.

The first residential offering will encompass more than 200 low-rise condominium units, townhouses and single-family homes.

The site is also permitted for more than 32,000 square feet of commercial space to serve residents and visitors.

The goal is for the first phase of sales to begin in Q4 2024 and for construction to begin in early 2025.

Wong said the development will also include a new ski lodge, an amphitheatre and a pond that can be used for skating when it freezes.

Room for future Killington expansion

In the longer term, there’s potential to add more than 2,100 residential units and 169,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, according to a permit on file with the state.

Wong said there hasn’t been a lot of development in the region, but there’s a large population in the northeastern United States that’s “looking for a domestic drive-to destination where they can bring their families and go skiing, but they also want an elegant experience.”

Safdie Architects is the primary designer and PWP Landscape Architecture is overseeing that area of design. Both come with impressive international resumes.

“We're putting a lot of resources into making this something different and very much in line with that culture of innovation,” Wong said.

Taboo Muskoka and Collingwood

Taboo Muskoka includes a variety of accommodations, an 18-hole golf course, two restaurants, a bar, meeting and special occasion facilities, nature trails, and a recreation and adventure centre.

Great Gulf Group acquired Taboo in 1984 and Wong said it’s looking at ways it can continue the property’s evolution. 

Great Gulf Group owns approximately 1,200 acres of land surrounding the resort. It’s master-planning what to do with it, but hasn’t yet made any announcements.

Great Gulf Group also owns about 1,000 acres across two resort development properties near Collingwood and is in the early master-planning stages at those sites.

“We have a lot of work to do,” said Wong. “It's really about how you bring these to life.” 

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