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Former Picton Manor site to become housing for families

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
The site of Picton’s first hospital, and later a much-loved nursing home, will soon be welcoming families back to Hill Street. And many of the family members behind the project were born at that hospital.

The County’s original nine-bed hospital, on Hill Street in Picton, opened on April 17, 1919. – Photo from the book This House of Healing, by Alan R. Capon

Known as the “Home with a Heart”, Picton Manor Nursing Home closed in September 2012 after relocating its 57 residents. Its 90 employees, residents and staff had learned in May that the 78-bed facility must close as it no longer met electrical, fire and structural codes.

In the early 1900s the older part of the home was Picton’s first hospital. It operated as a long-term care facility since the 1960s.

Plans to upgrade the Class ‘D’ facility by the owner at the time did not materialize.

Picton Manor Nursing Home on Hill Street, Picton

In the last few weeks, the building’s place in history hit its final milestone – demolition. While the structure’s final pieces fell last Wednesday, the Picton Manor “Home with a Heart” sign at its entrance was untouched, guarding the fenced mound of rumble that is expected to be fully cleaned-up by the end of next week.

When the property went to tender about 15 months ago, local businessmen Michael Hymus and David Cleave both intended to bid on the property. Rather than bid against each other, they decided to buy the property together, but Hymus recently transferred his share of the partnership to Cleave.

“Originally, the plan was that we would renovate it because in our 35 years in this business, we have renovated many, many buildings,” said Cleave, CEO of Port Picton Homes.

“It was a really good structure, but unfortunately when we dug into it, and did our asbestos report, we realized that there was a heavy growth of black mould that had come through over the years when it was uninhabited.

“We realized that there was a lot of water damage and once we got our engineer in, we decided that we would have to take it down, and re-purpose the property.”

Cleave notes as much of the structure as possible was recycled, including the concrete and the metal, but some was too far gone to be renewed.

“We tried to recycle the lumber, but the recycling company turned us away because it was too dry and couldn’t be chipped into landscape material because it just disintegrated.”

The 170-by-120-foot parcel, located on prime real estate in Picton’s east end – close to Picton Bay and the Prince Edward Yacht Club – is expected to become up to eight townhouses, or four single-family homes. At this point, Cleave noted, a multi-storey building is not being considered.

“At this time, we are drawing various scenarios for what would be best for the neighbourhood,” said Cleave. “That could be single family homes, or it could also be townhouses.”

He also bought the house next door, known as the “Hepburn House” in 1986 from Picton Manor, who had bought it and were going to tear it down for parking. The Cleaves restored the stucco two-storey home and are now back with another kick at beautifying a part of Hill Street.

“There’s lots of history there; all of my family were born there,” he said, “except for me.” Cleave is County born and raised, from Wellington, and is fifth generation. By 1961, the new (current) hospital was built and he was born there.

The small development is expected to be on the market in summer 2020.

Cleave owns and operates Port Picton Homes with his wife, Nancy and their two children Kathryn and Elyse, plus some 75 employees, several of whom are family members.

Their many County projects include the Pineridge development across from Bird House City and the new development at Curtis Street.

Pine Ridge is a 46-home community on the eastern edge of Picton, near Birdhouse City.

“It’s in its last legs of completion,” said Cleave, referring to the Pineridge development, noting there are seven lots left, and it is 85 per cent sold. The Curtis Street sub-division, which opened this spring, is 35 per cent sold.

“The exciting thing about Curtis Street is that it is very local buyers. It has a price point for affordability at $349,000 and that is attracting a lot of locals.”

The Curtis Street subdivision, off Talbot Street, is now under way.

Cleave noted that many new sub-divisions are being built with bungalows for the demographic of baby boomers.

“We decided to go to a two-storey because we felt there were a lot of young people with young families that it would attract.”

The two-storey, three-bedroom, two-bath, 1,700 or 1,800 square-foot townhouses have sold very well,” he said.

Those familiar with the Cleave family name, are also aware of the Port Picton Homes venture destined for the south-east shore of Picton Harbour.

With six or seven sub-divisions under their belts, Cleave calls it his legacy project, and at $200 million in today’s dollars, it is one that will include the historic Taylor family home and the Claramount.

Port Picton Homes now owns everything from the Head Street boat launch, all the way over to Dr. Taylor’s former family home at 101 Bridge Street.

The Port Picton Homes venture destined for the south-east shore of Picton Harbour stretches from Head Street to the Claramount area.

Cleave notes development of the 24-acre site will begin at the Claramount end, with dining and associated amenities at phase one.

“It’s a wide open community. We will bring in parkland and our whole purpose is to allow for bikes, runners and walkers to really enjoy the whole nature of that waterfront” along a 1,000 foot boardwalk into downtown Picton.

Cleave said right now, the area is slated for 300 places to live with docking, boats slips and amenities. The plan could include 14 single family homes on the waterfront, two dozen semi-detached and townhouses and as many as six mid-rise, five-storey buildings.

Following several public consultation meetings earlier in the year, Cleave said people were receptive to his plans and a draft planning meeting is scheduled for September 18 for approvals.

“There have been many studies and we have 30 reports that have been completed, including impact, environmental and architectural.”

All going well, ground could be broken in the New Year. He anticipates the low- to mid-rise townhouses and waterfront single family homes will take about one-and-a-half years to build, and with six of them, six to seven years for completion.

The County boy speaks fondly of the place he remembers from his childhood in the ‘70s.

“We have to remember all the canning factories were closing in the ‘60s and early ’70s, and so much of the employment was around those canning factories. We forget how much of a farming community we are and how really depressed those times were in the villages.”

He notes the County’s transformation over the past 30 years has been tremendous.

“The Picton harbour project for Port Picton Homes is that final statement, I think, to all the things that are happening, and we now get to wrap up our most significant asset.”

It’s one he believes is critical to the health of the economy and tax base in Prince Edward County.

“There are people who don’t believe housing is important, but I look at the financial statement, and we have to build houses.”

“You are always building for the next generation,” he said, “and this is very exciting.”

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  1. Mary says:

    Hey Angela
    I hear you loud and clear!

  2. Angela says:

    I don’t believe anyone is blaming the rich for their money or the tourists for taking a vacation. We just have too many of both in a small community and very little for the local resident who is also working “damned hard” for a living. The average person with a modest income has a right to expect a decent place to live in his or her home community. Why wouldn’t locals resent the fact that the place where they grew up is being transformed to a playground for an overwhelming number of tourists and new construction of homes, apartment buildings and condos is geared to wealthy retirees? We see people leaving our county because they can no longer afford to live here. Are we expected to applaud? Our elderly residents do not have many choices when it comes to an affordable apartment to rent and that is both sad and wrong.

  3. LB says:

    Gosh! A lot a resentment here against the “rich”. I’d love to know what that definition even is! It is great that old places are being restored. There’s nothing sadder than seeing homes and neighbourhoods and towns that are run down and not well kept. Where’s the pride in that? Is that the “affordable, depressed value housing” you want back? The trades charge thousands and thousands for renovations and construction. That has driven up the cost of housing. Homes cost a lot more to replace. You can’t blame people for using rental income as a means to offset those costs or blame “rich” people who work golldarn hard to EARN every nickel of their income for buying the homes. There is not one person who ever buys a house that does not hope it will be worth more when they sell it. That usually entails fixing it up along the way. Many people can not afford to buy their own homes at today’s values (and tax rates). That is an economic reality that is not unique to the County. Gains in real estate values has outpaced income gains, ergo a gap. I agree there needs to be more affordable housing of all kinds which because of the high costs to build likely means being subsidized. However it is not the private home owners responsibility to ensure their existing home is kept in the “affordable” pool. Sorry to see anyone leave the County.

    PS Quit blaming tourists for everything.

  4. Angela says:

    Sad you feel the need to leave Mary. I have never before considered it but the way it is going this year I am beginning to think of a move to the Belleville area. So much of what made the county special has been destroyed. I am tired of fighting my way to the check-out when I buy groceries and circling Main Street time after time to find parking. Forget Mary Street and the lot on King, They are usually full, too. Try to get a contractor for a small job – no dice for they are all busy with big contracts for the newcomers who are building and renovating. The county is now a destination, an amazing place to visit and a miserable place to live unless you can afford a McMansion and do not need to work.

  5. Mary says:

    Yes high end for newcomers! Where are there for average person in the service industry? Not here. My husband and I left the city in the 70’s for the peace, tranquility and charm of the county. No more, the county is overrun with
    monied tourists and as a result has lost its charm, so
    much so that my husband and I are leaving the county after 44 years! With deep regrets.

  6. Fred says:

    There is a an abnormal high rate of cancer here and the water cannot be ruled out.

  7. Susan says:

    I have mixed feelings about all this. I am one of those retirees who came here 9 years ago and bought a cute little century home for an amazing price that we could afford. We are not one of those ‘rich’ couples and are old DIYers, so any work on the house has been mostly done by us. We are upset about the number of old homes restored and then flipped for profit that only wealthy can afford. It is great that these homes are restored, but they are out of reach of the average person. Plus many get bought and changed to Air B&B. What does that say about greed! I truly hope that the Hill Street project will be affordable and bought by local families. And the harbour project will also include affordable housing. There has to be a balance.

  8. Pixie says:

    I moved here a year ago, I have steady employment but no place to live. So I am leaving the county, living here was a disappointment and eye opening experience. Saturated air B&B market, no affordable housing for anyone. There’s a lot of greed here… I also noticed a problem with the drinking water here, there’s an awful lot of agricultural business here, Monsanto loves it, locals drink bottled water as do I, in the year I have been here there have been several brain tumor deaths, ages ranging from 15 to 60s. At least a half dozen. Curious little place. A lot is hidden in plain sight.

  9. Angela says:

    The locals are being sold out. So lovely to see the wealthy retirees restoring old homes and building McMansions. How does this help the aging residents of the town who are looking for affordable housing? Most of the new shops and eateries in town are being opened by newcomers who have seized on the chance to capitalize on the tourist trade. With their prices they are certainly not depending on the locals to keep their doors open. How wonderful that luxurious new townhouses will go up where the old hospital once stood. That is really going to be a huge help to the elderly locals who want affordable housing. Picton may have been “saved” by the wealthy but the price is far too high. There is no place here now for young families or the aged on fixed incomes. We are a playground for the rich, no longer a home for those who built our community and have lived in it for a lifetime or for young families who want to stay here – this sector of the community lacks the big bucks which make the developers salivate.

  10. Allane says:

    I think this is fantastic! Beautiful homes being built in a fabulous spot. Think of the jobs it will bring to the area, the bigger tax base which should lower those outrageous water bills people on town water pay. Let’s be truthful with ourselves. Picton was crumbling from within and the influx of money is making real, significant upward change. There are more retail businesses, shops and light industry. Those that want to work can find work. Houses are being purchased that were falling into the ground and are being brought back to their former glory. Thank you sir for a wonderful vision and the courage to bring it about.

  11. Jack Smith says:

    Sure won’t be in my pocket book. Only the rich can afford. Once again locals are set on the back burner.

  12. Has any thought been given to building a retirement home? I lived in Picton/ Cherry Valley for 43 years.until after my husband died. That forced me to live in retirement homes. Until then we were active in the communities.
    Now I am forced to have lived in retirement homes in Picton, Trenton and now Brighton.
    There is a real NEED for retirement homes in the County. People like to stay where their friends are.

  13. Angela says:

    Affordable h
    ousing for Picton families? The new build will be high end affordable mostly to newcomers.

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