Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
June 20, 2024
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All Systems Go

Just entering its third summer, the momentum at the Base is palpable
<p>Pictured (L to R): Assaf Weisz, Chief Placemaking Officer; Jessica Pelchat, Founder &#038; CEO, Wild Child Regeneration (landscape designer for The Commissary); Hadas Brajtman, Head of  Food + Beverage at Base31; Rob Clark, Director Capital Projects at Base31; Tim Jones, CEO of Base31 (Photo: Burak Özsoy)</p>
Pictured (L to R): Assaf Weisz, Chief Placemaking Officer; Jessica Pelchat, Founder & CEO, Wild Child Regeneration (landscape designer for The Commissary); Hadas Brajtman, Head of Food + Beverage at Base31; Rob Clark, Director Capital Projects at Base31; Tim Jones, CEO of Base31 (Photo: Burak Özsoy)

I met Tim Jones and Assaf Weisz, co-creators of Base31’s renewal, onsite last week for a tour of an old military base in the midst of a dramatic transformation. 

The grounds are being turned, as Mr. Jones put it, “inside out,” and at an unusual pace. Long awaited water infrastructure is finally being installed, everywhere, it looks like, and in record time. “They are doing in about six months what could have taken years,” he notes.

The pair leads a team of 60, including 18 tradespeople in the Capital Projects group alone. That number swells to 100 in the high season, making the Base one of the largest employers in the County.

“I think of it as an engine, something that creates energy. It doesn’t just consume energy — now that we have built it, it has started to generate a momentum of its own,” says Mr. Jones.

The transformation is literal and physical — the collection of antique buildings is slowly being restored — and highly imaginative, even visionary. Which makes sense. Tim Jones received the Order of Canada last year for his work in “creative placemaking,” an innovative fusion of economic sustainability and the creative arts that makes for uniquely dynamic, integrated, and livable communities. That he has brought this skill set here, to a sagging collection of military barracks on an island in Lake Ontario, is extraordinary. 

And then there’s Mr. Weisz. Softspoken, kind, he is another creative fusion, a “social entrepeneur” who can manage capital investment funds. He was named a Canadian Under 30 Who Is Changing the Country by the CBC in 2013. He is the Base’s Chief Placemaker. 

Assaf Weisz and Tim Jones (Photo: Karen Valihora / Gazette Staff)

Together, Mr. Jones and Mr. Weisz are community-building visionaries shaping the 70-acre Revitalization District that will be at the heart of a vast 750-acre development project, and, perhaps, of the County itself.


One of our big draws here is music. 
We are interested in exploring with others 
if music can be to the County 
what theatre is to Stratford.

Tim Jones, CEO, Base31

The sheer scale of the enterprise, and of the opportunities it presents, send the mind reeling.

We drive, because the mud and the trenches, which are everywhere, can get formidable. Around us, hangars and barracks house long-term Base businesses. The art galleries Melt and Maison de Poivre were here before Base31’s partners moved in. Newcomers, like PEC Wine Tours, are attracted by the potential.

Recent restorations include the newly opened Pilot’s Lounge, home to the shoulder-season events crucial to making the Base a year-round destination.

A building key to the Base’s history, the Hostess House, formerly the home of Alice Moir, one of the only women at the Base, is also being restored. The structure has been moved, with great care, to a more central spot, next to the Sensory Garden. It will house the kids’ summer camps. 

Nearby, another business is opening up, an ice-cream parlour. “It is in what was formerly the dental clinic,” smiles Mr. Jones.

A renovation of the Drill Hall is also in the works. It will hold 1500 people for concerts, up from 1000 last year. A suite of indoor washrooms is coming with the plumbing by December, as well as a large new green room for the talent. Elevated tiered seating around a central dance floor will give more shape to the concert hall.


With music at its heart, 
the Base is becoming a year-round, four-season, multipurpose destination. There are now four 
separate stages, at the 
Drill Hall, the Mess Hall, the Pilot’s lounge, and 
another outdoors, at the new Commissary.

Hangar 1 is now dedicated to charting the history of Camp Picton, the former No. 31 Bombing and Gunnery School, in the world theatre. A new museum opens in 2025, its star exhibit a restored Lancaster Bomber, on loan from the National Air Force Museum in Trenton. A curator has just joined the team.

The Canadian Opera Company is a longtime tenant of Hangar 5. New partnerships, with BigLake Arts, the County Stage Company, and CAFF, the new County Adaptation Film Festival, are establishing the Base as “a co-creative platform,” as Mr. Jones puts it. 

“We see it as a catalyst for all kinds of other things,” he says, with characteristic understatement.

“We have formed over 150 partnerships,” notes Mr. Weisz. “Co-creation, intersection, collaboration, they mark everything from the trades we are using to the programming we do — it is as big a tent as we can make it.”

Come Together

“Our first season, 2022, was July and August,” laughs Mr. Jones. “We said, ‘we need to put on a show, demonstrate who we really are’. And we really moved very suddenly from first to third gear.”

“In May, for example, we decided the Drill Hall would be a concert venue.”

“We had all kinds of questions, about the acoustics, whether we would find an audience.”

“But then, David Wilcox suddenly just sold out. And that was the moment we knew it would work. We put on six concerts in 2022 and 39 in 2023. That season ran from June to October.”

This June, Base31 comes into its own. It plans more than 120 performances in a stunning lineup of summer concerts.

“One of our big draws here is music,” says Mr. Jones. “We are interested in exploring with others if music can be to the County what theatre is to Stratford.”

“We already have great art, food and wine here, can we also put the County on the map as a place that sings?”

A small but mighty band is gathering momentum. Music producers Robert Richardson and Taylor Raths have recently been joined by Juno award-winner Justin Rutledge, who now lives here. Locals, including Brian Barlow, are working to build the local music scene into something bigger than its parts.  

“We want to create a music ecology with a variety of ways of engaging artists, from incubating new talent, to showcasing icons and legends,” says Mr. Jones.

With music at its heart, the Base is becoming a year-round, four-season, multipurpose destination. There are now four separate stages, at the Drill Hall, the Sergeants Mess Hall, the Pilot’s lounge, and another outdoors, at the new Commissary.


There is always going to be 
something on. 
The activities 
are no longer just about events. 
The Base is now a destination in its own right, with gardens, art 
galleries, Night Watch as a 
permanent exhibit, 
and round-the-clock 
food and beverage offerings.


Assaf Weisz, Chief Placemaker

“There are hundreds of thousands of people within a 1.5-hour drive,” says Mr. Weisz. “We all need to work together to make this a four-season place. And the Base is emerging as a major driver of a true four-season economy.”

A third of the regular audience is local, another third comes from the region, and the rest from the urban centres, primarily Toronto, with Ottawa and Montreal close behind. 

“There is always going to be something on,” says Mr. Weisz. “The activities are no longer just organized by events. The Base is now a destination in its own right, with gardens, art galleries, Night Watch as a permanent exhibit, and round-the-clock food and beverage offerings.”

While to visitors the site is one of dramatic change, for the team involved, the terrific efforts involved are all in stride. “This is just an optimization of what we were already doing,” as Mr. Jones puts it.

This text is from the Volume 194 No. 20 edition of The Picton Gazette
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