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Lobby group wants revitalization as election priority
Candidates for Kelowna’s upcoming municipal election should have a passion for downtown revitalization or they have no business entering the race, say members of a loosely formed lobby group with a pro-development bent.
“This should be the priority No. 1,” said Craig Kelley, from the group, Save Downtown Kelowna, pointing out that the area between Lawrence and Harvey Avenue is in a serious state of disrepair.
“It should decide who gets on council and who doesn’t…and we’ll do anything in our power to make sure anybody who isn’t pro-development, doesn’t get elected.”
Kelley, along with two others, came together last April out of frustration with the current council’s decision to kill the contentious CD-21 Zone plan in the 11th hour.
Since then, they’ve largely been in “hibernation” mode, amassing supporters on their website savedowntownkelowna.com and waiting for the election to roll around.
They’ve also patched together a slate of three candidates they’ll back when the time comes —one who’s already on council, and two others, yet to be elected—although their names will remain unknown until the race gets going.
“This is driven by a passion and a desire to see our city achieve more than we have now,” said Kelley, who is also the owner of SameSun Hostels on Harvey Avenue.
From a business standpoint, Kelley has had years of listening to tourists complain about the state of downtown.
He pointed out that his push for change would benefit everyone who lives in this city.
“We get several thousand young (travellers) and the vast majority are disappointed with the Kelowna experience,” he said, pointing out that backpackers spend on average $100 a night, beyond accommodation costs.
“Our hostel and the others in Kelowna have the shortest average stay all over Canada. They check in, walk around the city and check out the next morning.”
Visitors complain about the lack of amenities, restaurants, culture and the general “vibe” of the city, as they head on to Banff or Vancouver, where they’ll stay for an average of three nights.
“It’s more in the off months we hear those complaints, but you need something to hang your hat on other than sun,” he said.
While it may seem as though Kelley is all gripes, he stressed that he’s seen some positives in the last few years.
“The city has done a very good job on the (downtown) charette and Bernard revitalization,” he said. “We’re just hopeful anyone getting elected in November comes out of the gate running. Now we’ll have to see if anybody wants to put money behind it.”