Lifestyle

Morgan: Bold changes for downtown

The City of Kelowna has recently started the first stages of the bold plan to rejuvenate the downtown core, to give it a long overdue “face-lift” to the heart of our city.

This 10-year strategy for the 2012 Downtown Plan consists of 143 hectares of the Okanagan Lake shoreline and a budget of $14 million.

The first stage of the plan encompasses the greater 25-year vision of a more vibrant and thriving downtown experience for visitors as well as local shoppers.

To that end, the Bernard Avenue Rejuvenation Project, Phase 2 of Stuart Park and Queensway Bus Exchange expansion are just a few of the plans in place to achieve the strategy goals.

The overall downtown agenda for change includes minimizing the negative impacts of truck traffic, encouraging the development of housing that attracts year-round residents who will continue to support our local businesses during the winter months, creating a public market in the downtown core and perfecting the access to public transit during the day and night.

And these are only a few of the many changes that we will see in the future, while the city at the same time works to maintain the access to the downtown waterfront along Okanagan Lake’s shoreline.

It has been anticipated that y 2030, Kelowna’s downtown core should account for 12 per cent of the city’s total growth, based on the 2030 Official Community Plan projections. This population growth will increase the need for new housing dwellings by some 2,800 units.

To help encourage development in the downtown area and support the predicted population increase, the city  has put into place a Revitalization Tax Exemption Program to help boost the interest for new development in the downtown core. For further information on this program check out bylaw 9561 on the City of Kelowna website. Other ideas to stimulate downtown growth include  lower development costs, reduced parking requirements and rental housing grants.

While there are some looming concerns about the vision outlayed for the downtown core’s growth, the city thoroughly doing its due diligence and listening to local residents’ concerns and input through surveys and polls should put any uncertainty at ease.

But for now, with the construction inconvenience of the Bernard revitalization street project, remember that downtown stores remain open for business, so don’t forget to drop in and say, “Hi.”

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