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Bear Mountain bought by resort company with Langford roots

Bear Mountain resort’s new owner will consult with the community before revealing refreshed development plans for its 836 acres in Langford and the Highlands.

Bear Mountain resort’s new owner will consult with the community before revealing refreshed development plans for its 836 acres in Langford and the Highlands.

“We have to work with the stakeholders of the community over the course of the next few months to come up with the right product mix,” Victoria resident Dan Matthews, Ecoasis Developments LLP managing partner and founder, said Wednesday.

Ecoasis bought the resort’s land, the Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort and Spa, and two golf courses from owner Bear Mountain Land Holdings, a subsidiary of HSBC Bank Canada. The bank took over the site on Skirt Mountain in 2010 after it went into creditor protection and founder Len Barrie was removed as CEO of Bear Mountain Partnership.

The sale price was not released.

While not giving out details about plans, Matthews said, “We have certainly looked at it through a different lens.”

Ecoasis is a “niche” development company committed to sustainable development projects, he said.

“We look for projects that are close to nature and have a high degree of livability,” said Matthews, a founding member of the Canadian Green Building Council. “Bear Mountain is an excellent fit for us. We really love the juxtaposition of nature in the Highlands, with urban vibrancy in Langford.”

The Matthews family is partners in Ecoasis with Vancouver’s Kusumoto family, he said. The partners are developing the high-end Kadenwood housing project, which has its own gondola, in Whistler, and the Hualalai golf resort and luxury housing development in Hawaii.

The Bear Mountain deal is partner-financed, he said.

“It’s important with multi-cycle projects that when the market is good, you have product available, and when the market is bad, you have the sustainability to say, ‘Nothing’s for sale.’ We would not have purchased it if we did not have that ability.”

Matthews, a golfer, is delivering a message of stability and security.

“That’s the only way we can preserve the long-term value proposition for ourselves and all of the stakeholders.”

His family has a historical connection to Langford. Grandfather Frank Wilfert, who has a road named after him, built a mill. Matthews’s mother, Margaret Matthews, was born in Langford. Matthews grew up in Nanaimo and Victoria, launching his first business at age 17, and has been based in locations such as New York, California and Vancouver.

Matthews is experienced in private equity and capital markets, with private equity investments in renewable energy, privacy and security technology, clean-tech, and real estate syndicates.

Although Ecoasis bought Bear Mountain resort based on a business decision, he said, “There is something somewhat magical about the fact that it fits our criteria and we have family history there.”

The sale closed Tuesday, three months after the property went on the market. No asking price was released. HSBC was owed $250 million.

Matthews is a low-key businessman, used to being under the media radar. That’s a contrast to Bear Mountain founder Barrie, now in Arizona, a former NHL player and outgoing personality.

Langford Mayor Stew Young believes the sale will bring international interest back to Bear Mountain and his municipality.

“We’re happy,” he said. “We have been waiting three years for somebody to get up there and get that resort back on.”

When Bear Mountain development was booming, it was Langford’s biggest employer and economic player, Young said.

Brad MacLaren, speaking for the Bear Mountain Community Association, is also optimistic. “I think there is tremendous promise here.”

On the Web

Ecoasis land acquisition at Bear Mountain