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CFL commissioner's Lake Simcoe retreat
Mark and Suzanne Cohon relax by the water after a commute that's less than an hour

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Friday, July 20, 2018 – Page H5

TORONTO -- 132 Hedge Rd., Georgina, Ont.


Asking price: $2,795,000

Taxes: $15,851.75 (2018)

Lot size: 200 feet by 130 feet

Listing agent: Jennifer Jones, sales representative, and Adrian Jones, sales representative, Keller Williams Realty Centres, Brokerage


The summer of 2007 was a busy one for Mark Cohon. He had recently become the Canadian Football League's commissioner and found himself on the road all summer.

It left little time for the other major development in his life: He and his wife, Suzanne, had just bought a cottage on Lake Simcoe in Georgina, just north of Toronto.

That location proved to be important. Instead of having a cottage on an island in the Muskokas (Ontario's tony cottage country) - and sitting in traffic gridlock to get there - their new cottage gave Mr. Cohon the freedom of being able to escape the city between football games.

"I could be at an Argos game, leave at 10 p.m. and be up at the cottage in 55 minutes," he said.

"Or I could land at Pearson Airport from a flight coming from Montreal and I had it down to a science: It was 54 minutes to our front door."

"You're almost a suburb of the city. You're that close with this cottage," he added.


Proximity to the city was only one of the factors that attracted the Cohons. They had also fallen for the area and Lake Simcoe.

Discovering the local charms a year earlier, they found out the house beside their friend's cottage was up for sale.

It was a 1950-style ranch home with a bunkie, a boathouse and direct access to the lake. Despite these assets, the home itself was in a state of "significant disrepair" and hadn't had too many updates or upgrades under the previous owners, Ms. Cohon said.

For example, there was an indoor pool at the back of the house. But the carpet surrounding it was mouldy and had algae growing in it.

"It was more like a science experiment," Ms. Cohon said, adding, "but we saw the utmost potential."

So right away, they started the gut, with the aim of keeping the original bungalow feel, with its huge windows facing the lake.

"We hollowed the entire house and modernized it by embracing what we thought was special," Ms. Cohon said.

They kept the original layout but made a few tweaks here and there (such as enlarging the master bathroom and walk-in change room). And once the structural elements were in place, they worked with Ms. Cohon's friend, interior designer Sara Bellamy, to restyle the inside. Together, they added a nautical flare to the home with a strategic use of colour. They focused on using blues and whites to echo the lake, with pops of orange, reminiscent of the sunrises and sunsets.

The biggest change, though, was the pool. Originally, Mr. Cohon had persuaded Ms. Cohon to get rid of it entirely.

"But we were one day from filling in [the pool] when Mark woke up in the middle of the night and was like, 'You're right, we're keeping it!' " Ms. Cohon said. So they made the calls that night to cancel the infill.

Mr. Cohon's change of heart was in part because their friend (and neighbour) persuaded them that having a heated swimming pool extends their swimming season while the lake warms up in spring.

But they never considered keeping it as an indoor people.

They say the decision to make it an outdoor pool is one of the most important ones they made, because it created an uninterrupted view of the lake from inside the house and allowed more light into the home.

The entire renovation took almost 10 months (including landscaping the outdoor space). Now, the home features a large, open entertaining space, the kitchen, dining room and living room. To one side is a mudroom, gym and two-car garage. On the other are the three bedrooms, including the master suite. With the guest room in the boathouse and another sleeping area in the bunkie, there are a total of five bedrooms - meaning plenty of space for hosting overnight visits from friends.

Over the years, the Cohons have continued to make improvements to the property, including building a deck for lounging by the lake. The addition of the deck brought the total outdoor seating options to four.

(The other three being a dining area by the pool, rooftop deck on the boathouse and a loggia.)

In terms of maintenance, the couple says that for a cottage, 132 Hedge Rd. doesn't require too much annual work. Because it's winterized, the regular opening and closing tasks of many cottages don't have to be done.

However the pool does require some end-of-season care.


One of the added perks of the Cohons' cottage is its very specific location on Hedge Road.

"Hedge Road is a high-end pocket. It's like the Hamptons north of Toronto," said Jennifer Jones, the Cohons' agent.

Beyond the luxury cottages that line the street, Hedge Road is known for being the home of Georgina's Briars Golf Club. The club happens to be across the street from the Cohons's home.

(It's 50 feet from their front door to the first tee, according to Mr. Cohon.)

Georgina itself is a fairly small town, having a population of just more than 45,000.

The local real estate market has been hot, according to Ms. Jones, with 2017 being a particularly good year for price appreciation. The new mortgage rules and the foreign-buyers tax in Ontario has since cooled things off.

"We were going up exponentially," Ms. Jones said.

For example, the average price of a property in Georgina in June, 2016, was $423,031. In June, 2017, it went up nearly 50 per cent, reaching $634,094. For June, 2018, it has dropped to $595,946.

"We're still going up, it's just not with the fury of 2017," she said.

One area of the market that was less affected by the 2017 changes was waterfront properties, Ms. Jones said. She suspects that's because there are simply fewer properties available. So when it came to pricing 132 Hedge Rd., she looked at what the other cottages along the street had sold for recently. "Going over $2.5-million is a low minimum for direct waterfront [properties] that have had some kind of improvements in this area," Ms. Jones said.

The Cohons found a buyer earlier this month after 36 days on the market. (The purchase price has not yet been disclosed.)


Many of the favourite features for the Cohons are built around their memories there or rituals they come to have.

"My favourite thing about this property is waking up early in the morning, seeing a flat lake and paddling out about 500 metres and looking back at the cottage," Mr. Cohon said. "I feel removed from the issues of the world."

For Ms. Cohon, she will always cherish the ability to look out on frozen lake in the winter with a cup of coffee in her hands. "This cottage is a special spot," she said. "It's really serene and peaceful."

Associated Graphic

Suzanne and Mark Cohon immediately gutted their home on Lake Simcoe, with the aim of keeping the original bungalow feel with its huge windows facing the lake.


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