Former Newfoundlander proposing housing development on the outskirts of Hughes Brook

Diane Crocker
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Some of the land Mike O’Leary is hoping to develop is shown. — Star photo by Geraldine Brophy

CORNER BROOK  Mike O’Leary has an idea that could fill a void in the housing market in the area.

The Newfoundland-born real estate developer who now lives in Florida is proposing to build a 94-lot housing development on the outskirts of Hughes Brook.

O’Leary is originally from Corner Brook and his family also lived in Steady Brook before moving to St. John’s. After he graduated from high school in St. John’s, O’Leary was invited to spring training with the Montreal Expos in Florida. While there he met his future wife and decided to settle there.

He’s been in real estate development for about 25 years.

About six years ago when the market slowed in the United States, O’Leary started to look at opportunities back in Newfoundland. He currently has developments in Portugal Cove-St. Phillips and in St. John’s. He said articles he’s seen over the last year or two about how difficult it is to find modest-priced homes led him to pursue opportunities on the west coast of the province to try and fill the need.

“It’s not necessarily where you ... try and recreate the world. It’s all about finding out where there’s a lack and then trying to fill it.”

The site he’s looking at near Hughes Brook consists of 64.7 acres of land owned by William Aubrey Ellsworth that was used as a cattle forage field.

He expects the development will be attractive to homebuyers, from first-timers to people looking to downsize.

O’Leary said first-time homebuyers are having trouble entering that ownership market right now because the price of a new home or an existing home that they’re buying from somebody else is fairly pricey.

“We also see that there’s a real need for those that are downsizing from a larger family home where they no longer need all the square footage.” He said the idea is to get away from all the costs associated with owning a larger home, from the mortgage to electricity and oil costs, maintenance costs and insurance.

Another potential market is for people with resources who are looking to buy a second home and want to enjoy the wonderful things the west coast has to offer. The site is just about 10 minutes from Corner Brook and from Marble Mountain and offers lots of potential for winter sports and hiking.

“What’s envisioned here are very modest-priced, cottage-style homes that would also be designed in a very energy efficient way.”

He said the designs are for well insulated homes with everything geared up for cost savings going forward. And because O’Leary’s plans is to not only develop the land but also to build the homes he said there will be a large amount of quality control on the project.

Each home will be between 1,000 and 1,200 square feet in size, on generous-sized building lots with ample space for a detached garage and room for children to play. The cost of the homes is expected to be in the $250,000 range or less.

O’Leary has had the property in question under contract for an extended period of time and has made a substantial investment of money into the project including non-refundable payments on the land.

Over a year ago O’Leary submitted the necessary application to the provincial government for the project. He had hoped to start some work this spring, but said it is a lengthy process with a number of government agencies involved and a lot to consider.

Just recently O’Leary received notice from the Department of Environment and Conservation that the project requires an environmental preview report.

A bulletin from the department says an environmental assessment committee will be appointed to provide advice to the minister on guidelines for the proponent on the preparation of the report and the adequacy of the report when it is received from the proponent. The public will be invited to provide comments on the report upon its submission. Committee chairperson Paul Carter can be contacted for further information at 709-729-0188 or email at

O’Leary said he hopes to address this in the coming weeks and possibly be able to move forward with the project this summer.

He’s already had dialogue with the town’s mayor and some neighbouring property owners about how the development could impact them and is interested in working with all parties in order to end up with a good product.

Organizations: Montreal Expos, Department of Environment and Conservation

Geographic location: Hughes Brook, Newfoundland, Florida Corner Brook Steady Brook United States Portugal Cove Marble Mountain

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Recent comments

  • West Side Girl
    February 08, 2012 - 11:15

    I'd like to see developed somewhere in Corner Brook or surrounding area, a site with individual lots for mini homes to be placed on, or a trailer park where individual trailer owners own their own lots.

  • jimbob
    February 06, 2012 - 07:45

    yes again there you go....if a $250000 is a modest priced house....then wages have been left far behind. Let's put 12,500 down on 250k(intrest now 2.99%) for 25 years and have an $1125/month payment. Good. Now lets get the wage up there so a decent average non-union person can bring home a modest $1100 every week. Thats where rent and house payments should be, approx. 25% of a persons income.

  • Citizen
    February 05, 2012 - 21:57

    It's a good idea, the man is making a dollar on a very smart investment targeting our aging population. Development is not as terrifying as everybody makes it seem. 250 is a lot of money, but it's also a maximum price. I think this city is so boring that people insist on dumping on the front page article, no matter what it is. God forbid if someone is developing some land.. someone in this country probably got murdered last night.

  • confused
    February 05, 2012 - 18:17

    I can't believe this proposal had lasted as long as it has. when my family wanted to build near the very same farm we had to be at least 600 metres from the farm and we had to build within the town limits. Not only is that land zoned agriculture, it is part of the existing farm (within 600 m), and I believe it is outside the town boundary. I guess I also needed to be on the EXPOS farm team and tell people I have spent tonnes of money. So what. I guess you shouldn't have invested before doing your homework or perhaps you did your homework and realized that government rules don't apply to all. If that project wastes anymore tax payers money I am going to reapply and take the government to court. Come on government get a grip.

  • wishful thinking
    February 05, 2012 - 15:04

    I wish there was some sort of housing developments that would be simular to the NL Housing. I wish I could have the oportunity to own my own home with my husband and two children but unfortunitly even with both of us working the monthly payments would be too high. I guess I am wishful thinking that we could ever have a home to live in that we could pay for based on the money we make, even if it means alot longer to pay out. well just a dream I guess.

    • jimbob
      February 07, 2012 - 09:13

      I feel for you, after living in Alberta for 28 years, owning two houses, we moved back here, been here working for barely above min wage now and 9-10 years later we don't qualify for a mortgage to buy a home any more, kinda like tumbelling downhill is living in NL. I wish you could get a house, I wish they would pay more money to people here, I wish they would start paying overtime, Why should your family with both parents working still have to reley on NL houseing. Employers are paying NL employees far too little...hense the exodus to Alberta...won't be long for me either.

  • Michael Gregory
    February 04, 2012 - 19:16

    Any property that is zoned for agriculture should stay that way. Forget the big housing projects. Start planting. In 10 years time we wished we had.

  • george p b
    February 04, 2012 - 16:27

    I believe that Mike is Sean & Vera O'Leary's son--I knew his father, a CB baseball legend. I wish him well. But how can somebody be an "ex Newfoundlander"???? There is no such thing--either you were born here or you weren't.... Now a REAL Newfoundlander is somebody like myself--born before 1 april 1949....

    • turk
      February 05, 2012 - 22:01

      Attitudes like yours are the reason I plan leaving this province as soon as I graduate, with no intention of returning-- because of the people here.

  • David
    February 04, 2012 - 16:16

    Instead of tossing out trivia like the reference to the Montreal Expos (ooooh!) why not describe the previous developments he was involved in over 25 years? That might be somewhat germaine to the topic, no? I just picture Lyle Lanley and his North Haverbrook monorail.....

  • David
    February 04, 2012 - 12:27

    Everyone get ready for the Humberr Valley shuffle.....but without any of the lift from cyclic or the mania-like demand of that one. In fact, maybe Mr. O'Leary might want to personally visit this region first....that he might possibly appreciate the very subtle difference between Hughes Brook and Portugal Cove-St. Phillips.

  • BB
    February 04, 2012 - 12:13

    I believe this land is agriculture zoned.. If so this shouldn't be allowed. They already stopped development back there before as it wasn't allowed.. Unless some land can be traded as it is a good idea.

  • newsreader
    February 04, 2012 - 11:22

    I was thinking Mr. O'Leary's proposed development is a fantastic thing until I got to the part about the price of these homes being about $250,000. That's affordable? And are people likely to pay that kind of dough for 1,000 to 1,200 square foot home? This just seems to be adding to the problem of inaffordability that we already have. This is no way to help out individuals and families who are just starting out as homebuyers. And people looking to downsize aren't going to be attracted either, because they aren't going to see any investment potential in the purchase.

  • jb
    February 04, 2012 - 10:45

    Any land that is suitable for agriculture in the province, should be used for agriculture. The failed Humber Resort should be redeveloped for affordable housing before we build over all of our available farmland.

  • Ellen
    February 04, 2012 - 09:04

    since when is $250,000 a modest priced home??? the article seemed good to me until I came to the spot that stated this "modest" price .. for a cottage type home ! -are you kidding me?? methinks you had better lower the price if you expect ordinary families to purchase these...!!??