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Granville Island style developer unfazed by farmers' market tumult

Plans for a Granville Island style development in Kelowna's north end won't be stymied by recent tumult among farmers' market members, although a few among their ranks may still migrate to the site once the project comes to life.

The Clement Avenue project has never relied on  market support, explained the developer behind the plan to repurpose the old BC Tree Fruit building.

"We think they're a great organization, and they represent a really good quality product, and when we've done our research, we've seen that it's normal to have a  farmers' market working from the parking lot of public market," Gary Tebbutt, of Compass Real Estate Development.

"It's just good synergy."

But, he stressed, goals for the market to move indoors have never been in the works.

For the same rate as the market pays Orchard Park for the parking lot they currently call home on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, Tebbutt would have signed off on a 15 year lease at the Clement Avenue site.

"I really believe in what they stand for, and the executive are all volunteers who work hard," he said. "I feel bad that this caused such disharmony."

If all goes well, it's inside the behemoth building is where the plans for Urban Square will come to life by June of 2015.

Imagine Granville Island, from a Kelowna perspective. That means much of what's offered at the farmers' market will be available in the market environment.

"We're going to be really careful about the quality of the product… They need to make, bake or produce their product locally," said Tebbutt.

Having made that goal known months ago, it's not surprising that Tebbutt has fielded a number of inquiries from people who currently sell their wares at the local market.

"We always knew that larger vendors at the farmers' and crafters' market wanted to  transition  to a full time market," he said, adding there will be somewhere between 40 and 70 spots that need to be filled.

"We have  50 really solid inquiries  from vendors who want to be in the indoor market, which will be a year round, six day a week market"

In addition to comment from vendors, the site has also been a repository for community input.

"The comments we've been getting have been almost unpredictably positive and enthusiastic," he said. "Most people, what they've expressed to me, is that they don't understand why there's a controversy."

The ambitious Urban Square project will stretch the entire length of Clement Avenue between Ethel and Richter streets.

Tebbutt bought the three-hectare site, which includes an existing 3,345-square-metre building, from BC Tree Fruits for an undisclosed price.

 

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