by Stephen Dafoe
Frank Sinatra’s 1953 song Young at Heart is a fitting theme song for Blue Meadow Homes developer Bob Chauvet’s most recent venture.
The $1.3 million Fable Daycare Ltd. project on 100 Street and 101 Avenue has risen quickly and uniquely over the past few months causing many in the community to talk about its unusual design.
Though the development looks like something out of a Tolkien novel or historical period movie, Chauvet assures us he is not concerned about Orcs or Vikings overrunning the place. What he is expecting, however, is some 90 happy children occupying the facility starting in June of 2017.
“I’ve always enjoyed the presence of children,” Chauvet said. “Maybe in a way I’ve been lucky enough to be able to grow old without growing up. It’s always something that’s interested me, and I’ve always enjoyed the company of children.”
It is that youthful outlook and love of children that prompted the builder to create a specially designed building that incorporates the business aspect of his trade with a child’s fantasy look into one building. Chauvet’s recent acquisition of the Parish Hall lands afforded him to build what he says is his retirement project.
It’s Chauvet’s second crack at a daycare. An earlier development on 107 Street did not have the space the developer envisioned as necessary for his dream project, one that could accommodate 90 children.
Chauvet’s inspiration for the Morinville venture came from BC’s Fable Cottage, a development established in the 1950s as a family home. That building was moved by barge some 240 kilometres north to Denman Island after developer Wes Ritter bought it in 1993.
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“I was lucky enough to have Wesley, who lives in the Fable Cottage, working with us here on this one,” Chauvet said, adding the original had two million tourists in a 10-year period. “The land became so valuable that they offered the cottage for sale for a dollar on the condition it was moved. Wesley moved it from Victoria to Denman Island.”
Chauvet’s $1.3 million version is 5,300 square feet for the daycare area. The more than 5,000 sf will be broken up into areas for infants, toddlers, preschool, after-school care, and administration.
In addition to a fantasy exterior, the building will have a similar interior. The developer is planning a rustic plaster wall covering, plank doors with custom built hinges, and lots of tree trunk trimmings and stair spindles.
The builder says many of the decisions are being made as they go, something he says is allowing for more collaboration and creativity.
“You see a lot more possibilities as you go along,” he said. “If you try to cast everything in stone, then you are losing a big part of it. it’s the details that make it special.”
With framing now complete, Chauvet says the building is approximately 30 per cent finished. Much work remains on those exterior and interior finishes.
Chimnies have an unusual and fanciful wobble to them that are both visually appealing but also functional in that the building’s piping and venting will be brought up through the chimnies so as to avoid pipes on the exterior detracting from the fantasy look.
Rubber plywood, a material Chauvet says is capable of bending to a ten-inch circle, allows for the many curvatures in the roof. As such, Chauvet estimates shingling the elaborately curved roof to take approximately three months.
Landscaping will be another major undertaking. “We have quite an elaborate budget for landscaping,” Chauvet said, noting there is more to landscaping than providing green space for the children who will occupy the facility.
“There are three parts to the project. There’s the construction. You build a building, and you lease it out. The second part is the operating of the daycare, which is a business in itself. The third part is there is quite the potential for tourist business developed around that building. That is another aspect of it that can be developed.”
Chauvet said he has already been in talks with the Morinville & District Chamber of Commerce. “We’d like to develop a landscaping plan that would set it aside – really elaborate,” he said. “You can’t have a building that’s a tourist attraction and only have the building itself. You have to have the accessories. You’ve got to have the landscaping. You have to have the furniture. You have to have the windows – special design.”
Any potential tourist activity will be kept completely separate from the daycare. “There’ll be a separate entrance. You don’t want to mix the tourist with the children, so there will be a separate entrance where the people can come in,” he said. “From there they [tourists] can go up [to the second floor]. There’ll be a balcony.”
Regardless of who leases the facility to operate the daycare, Chauvet said a security camera system would be placed throughout Fable Daycare Ltd. to provide parents with peace of mind and full monitoring recall if required.
Although who will ultimately run the facility is yet to be determined, Chauvet says families can pre-register their children by calling 587-341-3535.
Chauvet said the Parish Hall, which remains on the property, is currently being rented by a Tae Kwon-Do school and will be used by 1st Morinville Scouts this fall.