The future of the Woodchester Villa in Bracebridge is looking bright.
That’s according to Deputy Mayor Rick Maloney, who is part of a working group tasked with finding a new use for the historic building. Maloney says the working group has spent a year listening to public input and discussing possibilities for the villa and has come up with a two-phase plan to bring it back to life. He says the first phase would start this year and would see the building re-opened to the public.
Maloney says having a staff member there would mean locals and tourists could visit the building and see the inside. In order to kick off this first phase, the town would need to put about $120,000 into building upgrades like air conditioning, electricity, and gas. The town previously spent over $250,000 to renovate the building between 2009 and 2015. Maloney says parking has also been an issue and the working group is coming up with a few ideas including adding a new parking lot closer to the villa and reconstructing the trail leading up to the building.
The working group has also suggested the villa needs some outdoor improvements. Maloney says the town is hoping to work with the Bracebridge Horticultural Society to bring some life back to the villa property gardens.
Maloney says once the updates are finished and the villa is open to the public this will hopefully generate more interest in the property. He says this will lead into phase two, which comes with some pretty interesting and innovative ideas to attract more tourism.
Maloney says any plans for the Woodchester Villa should compliment the plans for the future of the Timber Mart lands. In 2016, the town announced it was purchasing the Timber Mart property which runs along the Muskoka River downtown for $3 million. Timber Mart owners Ted Minty and Dennis Doidge will be leasing the land from the town for the next two to five years before finding a new location for their store. Town officials will spend this time planning the future of the waterfront property.
The Woodchester Villa was built in 1882 by Henry J. Bird and features a unique octagon shape. Bracebridge officials purchased the building in the late 70s and it was used as a local museum before shutting down in 2009 for renovations. The building has sat empty since renovations finished in 2015.
Maloney says it could be a few years before these bigger ideas are brought to life, but the end result will be well worth the wait.
These new plans for the villa are still dependant on the approval of the 2018 budget. The Woodchester Villa will be one of many projects discussed in the 2018 budget when council meets on January 30th.
Deputy Mayor Rick Maloney imagines what kind of scenic views could be created for the Woodchester Villa following the development of the Timber Mart lands. Photo Credit: Submitted by James Bowler