The Town of Callander is discovering it has the best of both worlds.
Situated as a bedroom community for nearby North Bay, and as a boating and fishing playground, the picturesque town of 3,100 hugging the southeast shore of Lake Nipissing is best known for producing the Dionne Quintuplets.
While wanting to retain its small town charm, but eager to encourage what its mayor Bill Brazeau calls "selective growth," town officials and residents decided two years ago a change of image was in order.
They dropped the municipality's former name of North Himsworth.
"Nobody knew where North Himsworth was," says Brazeau.
Then they designed a new logo and launched a community Web site (www.callander.ca) as a tool to lure in potential homeowners, professional and investors.
As North Bay's economy has flourished with its diverse mining supply and light industry sector, so has Callander's.
With a residential tax rate that is almost $500 lower on a $100,000 home than in the city, the town's cottage-life atmosphere, combined with the urban amenities of North Bay, just a 10-minute drive away, is sparking activity in new-home starts.
The response has been phenomenal with a residential building boom as a result of retirees, professionals and young families moving to Callander.
On former bush lots, two new subdivisions overlooking a lake, including a 265-lot development near Osprey Links golf course, are taking shape.
"We're seeing some real prime development," says Brazeau. "People are seeing the growth that's come in and are swooping (property) up."
Between January 2003 and January 2004, 83 permits for single-family dwellings were issued, with 78 more for home renovations, garages and semi-detached homes.
A 22-unit condominium complex - known as Heron's Landing - opposite the town's waterfront on Main Street is in the planning stages, as well as a small marina to accommodate the development.
There is also talk of a semi-retirement home going up at the north end of town.
A casino-conference centre proposal by local resort owner Ted Abraham remains on hold until the province lifts its moratorium on casino expansion.
"We have a golden opportunity to not only expand residential development, but get some prime development in our area that will attract people," says Brazeau, and that is why it is critical to complete the four-laning of Highway 11.
He fully expects an improved road connection and faster access to southern Ontario will bring forth even greater exposure for the town and open up new business opportunities.
While Callander's economy has been geared around sport fishing and the cottage crowd, Brazeau would not mind diversifying by adding some light industrial and commercial development, providing it fits the town's "keep-it-green" strategy.
The town is currently undertaking an inventory of available highway sites, and plans on actively promoting the community by booklet and video at southern Ontario home shows and on doctor recruitment tours.