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Height of proposed hotel raising some concerns

Design of the new downtown Kelowna hotel proposed by Westcorp.   - Contributed
Design of the new downtown Kelowna hotel proposed by Westcorp.
— image credit: Contributed

A plan to build a 24-storey “landmark” hotel on the downtown lakeshore at the foot of Queensway was presented to the public Wednesday.

For those who showed up to look at the plans, many walked away saying they liked what they saw.

The open house for the hotel, proposed by Edmonton-based developer Westcorp, drew a large crowd and several who attended said they felt it was what downtown Kelowna needs—a focal point development.

“I love it,” said Jorin Wolf, who along with her husband Wayne attended the open house. “I like the shape, it’s a softer look, almost nautical,” she said of the proposed elliptical-shaped tower atop a five-story stepped back base containing retail stores on the ground level, a glass-fronted restaurant facing the lake, conference space and parking.

Another woman, who declined to give her name, called the proposed development “very positive” for the city, something she felt  could help bring more people downtown.

Westcorp has said it’s 210-room hotel would compliment the nearby existing Delta Grand Hotel and its convention facilities. The addition of more quality hotel rooms downtown, within walking distance of The Grand’s convention centre, could help the city attract more, larger conventions here in future, it says.

But if there is a point of contention about the proposed development, it is likely going to be the height.

At 24 storeys, Westcorp will have to ask for a variance as the city’s Downtown Plan, which only envisions a maximum of 19 storeys on the site.

Westcorp has said that to make the building viable and maintain maximum sightlines, it had to design a taller thinner building. It has also said the elliptical design is another effort to minimize any view blockage.

But not everyone on hand was happy with all aspects of the proposal.

Beryl Itani said while she liked the concept, she was opposed to the height, feeling 24 storeys right on the lakeshore is too tall.

“I don’t like the height at all. I would prefer to see something 12 storeys instead,” said Itani.

The building would be separated from the lake by Kerry Park and what is now Mill Street, a short road that connect Bernard Avenue to the foot of Queensway.

Westcorp owner Phil Milroy said he needs the city to close Mill Street—land Westcorp would then buy—to accommodate part of the new building.

While no parkland would be lost as a result of the development, a new pedestrian walkway separating the hotel building and Kerry Park would be created along the route of what is now Mill Street.

Milroy said the closure and acquisition of the road is essential for his company’s plan to move forward.

Because Mill Street is partially zoned as parkland despite the fact it is a road, a rezoning—and accompanying public hearing— would be required. That could take place as early as next month. It will give the public another chance to comment on the project.

If the development receives council approval, Westcorp says construction could start next year and be complete by 2017.

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