A pair of developers and a partner in their property management efforts are trying to give back to Kingston -- their "second home" -- with a large-scale condominium project in Williamsville District.
And the trio, who know a little bit about rough waters and high winds, hope for smooth sailing for the University Suites project at the corner of Princess Street and University Avenue.
Bernard Luttmer and Oskar Johansson of Podium Developments, and A.J. Keilty of Varsity Properties, have teamed up to develop and manage two condominium projects totalling almost 400 units on Princess Street at the corner of University Avenue.
Luttmer, from Pickering, and Johansson, of Burlington, first came to Kingston as young boys to sail competitively on Lake Ontario.
"I've been coming to CORK since I was about 11 years old," said Luttmer, who was with Johansson at the condominium sales centre on Tuesday. "Kingston is a really favourite spot to come sail."
They met each other "on the water" and have been friends ever since. The pair also attended Queen's University and competed on the sailing team.
Both also have engineering degrees, while Johansson also has an economics degree. They graduated in 2002.
"I came to Queen's predominantely because of sailing," Johansson said. "The reputation of the school is there, but I came because of my experience at CORK."
Also, both have represented Canada at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens; Johansson who teamed up with John Curtis of Kingston in a Tornado and Luttmer in a Laser.
Johansson believes the training he got competing in world class sailing events along with the preparation to attend an Olympic Games serves he and Luttmer well in their business ventures.
"It's not just us, there's so many more people involved in assembling that team," Johansson said. "I think we got that from our sport experience.
"If you put a big team together, and a really good team together, success comes."
Johansson said they've parlayed their team building into their real estate development buildings.
"In particular, this project, University Suites, has a world-class team in place to put this site into fruition."
The first phase of the project, a 199-unit building located where University Avenue meets Princess Street, is already sold out.
Dominos Pizza and Rhea's will eventually leave the site to make room for the first phase of the project.
They're currently selling units for the second phase of the project, across Princess Street where Central City Automotive currently stands.
The units have a starting price of $188,900 and the buildings feature a variety of amenities, including ground floor commercial space, a two-level atrium fitness area, and a roof top barbecue lounge overlooking the city.
Both developers agree that condominium owners and renters, whether they be undergraduate or graduate Queen's students, doctoral candidates, professors or other young professionals, need a nice place to live.
Both Luttmer and Johansson both lived in rundown student houses in the University District while attending Queen's.
"We came about this because we lived in those sort of conditions and we saw an opportunity where we see a lot of people coming from outside of Kingston going to Queen's, living in these old homes that really haven't been maintained for the last hundred years," Johansson said.
"They're beautiful houses -- the outside is great but the inside is pretty rotten."
"Being technical engineers that we are, we thought we could do better here. Kids can live better; there's an opportunity here."
Luttmer said it's about providing more living space near Queen's.
"I don't think it's about changing the culture, I think it's about providing options. The city needs good housing options. The rental market is just super-tight, there's nowhere to live, it's really hard to find a place, and the more options people provide anyone out there can make a decision of where they want to live and have a little nicer place to stay."
The project is about 500 metres from the Queen's campus.
"There are not a lot of great rental options in this neighbourhood, and we saw an opportunity to revitalize Williamsville," Luttmer said.
"The city's done a great job in building a plan that developers can work with and help this neighbourhood."
After graduating early in the last decade and taking part in the Olympics, the pair have been in the development business for the past 10 years.
They started with smaller properties and brought in other people to help to grow the business.
They're proud of their townhouse development project across from Victoria Park on Mack Street. It won a Livable City Design award from the City of Kingston.
Podium Developments has worked on many projects across Ontario, but also wants to work on Kingston projects.
"it's a personal connection to Kingston; it's where we started," Luttmer said.
"This is a project we started to revitalize the neighbourhood and we want to see it through."
"We're really excited about Kingston. We think it's a great market and we think there's a great opportunity to do business here."
"I think it's an absolute fantastic city and it's undervalued in terms of real estate," he said.
Johansson said the project has been promoted across Canada and a video was put together to promote Kingston.
"There's a lot of great things about the community that we sort of knew about."
Johansson said projects such as these attracts condo owners, investors and tenants, and with 11 million people living between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal representing one-third of Canada's population, the market to attract interest and investors is vast.
"It's a great opportunity to invest here -- we already know what a great place Kingston is -- and it's also a great place to sail, a good excuse to come back.
"One of the reasons we really like Kingston is our experience at Queen's. It was the best time of my life."