News / Ottawa

Wakefield Mill owners to open Meech Lake lodge in 2017

The history of the old O’Brien House will be on display when the Meech Lake property reopens next summer as the Kincora Lodge.

O'Brien House.

Courtesy National Capital Commission

O'Brien House.

The history of the old O’Brien House will be on display when the Meech Lake property reopens next summer as the Kincora Lodge.

Wakefield Mill Developments has secured a contract with the National Capital Commission that involves $3.9 million in renovations to the property.

The company will then operate it as a 14-room boutique hotel.

“It’s quite a striking property,” says Robert Milling, the president of Wakefield Mills Developments. “It’s perched on the top of an escarpment … [and] has beautiful sightlines of Meech Lake.”

The house, built in 1930, was once used as a conference centre for the federal government but has been abandoned since the late 1980s.

“It goes back to an earlier time of big nature lodges,” says Milling. “It was a really big thing at the turn of the century.”

Some of the features include 16-foot ceilings, six stone fireplaces and an abundance of natural light. Milling says there is the potential for dramatic decks wrapping around the building’s exterior.

There are challenges that come with a project like this, Milling says. Because it’s in a park, there’s an extra level of environmental assessment and because it’s a heritage property, there’s an extra level of heritage design review.

“There’s a lot of oversight, but the oversight generally leads to a better product,” Milling says. “There’s a lot of talent being put to bear on this.”

Construction on the property is scheduled to start in January or February, and is expected to finish next summer.

Milling says he expects the new Kincora Lodge to appeal to people who want to celebrate special occasions and people interested in leisure activities in the surrounding Gatineau Park.

“It should be fairly popular with cyclists and cross-country skiers. We will be doing joint offerings with the Wakefield Mill where people can stay one or two nights at one property and one or two nights at another property,” he says.

There will also be meeting space for up to 20 people.

He expects there will also be an opportunity to offer packages with local ski hills and spas.

For Milling, there’s also something special about reopening the lodge built by industrialist Ambrose O’Brien.

“Back in the early 1900s, he owned the sports franchise that had the highest payroll on the planet, it was called the Renfrew Lumber Kings, so if you can imagine, a small lumbering town in the Ottawa Valley had the highest paid sports team on the globe,” Milling says.

O’Brien also founded the National Hockey Association, the predecessor to the National Hockey League, and was the founding owner of the Montreal Canadiens.

“I’m a history buff,” Milling says. “There will be some interesting stories told when we’re finished with the property.

This article originally appeared in the Ottawa Business Journal.