Okanagan Innovation Centre proposal approved by Kelowna city council

An artist
An artist's rendition of the proposed Okanagan Innovation Centre, slated for the corner of Doyle Avenue and Ellis Street in Kelowna.
— image credit: contributed

Alistair waters

assistant editor

A proposed innovation centre, planned for the corner of Doyle Avenue and Ellis Street in downtown Kelowna, has won the backing of city council.

Earlier this week, council unanimously approved a development permit for the project, paving the way for the six-storey, wood and glass building be built on what is now a grass lawn beside the main Kelowna branch of the Okanagan Regional Library.

The land is owned by the city and would remain under city ownership.

“This approval brings us a step closer to achieving our goal of creating a state-of-the art innovation and technology incubator in the Central Okanagan” said Jeff Keen, a project spokesperson.

“Support for the concept from both the community and the market has been very strong and once our financing arrangements are complete we can start to make firm commitments to prospective tenants and move forward with construction.”

Keen told a local radio station Thursday that the interest in the building has been so strong since word of it surfaced a six weeks ago, that if it was to open today, it would be 90 per cent occupied.

The 9,848-square-metre building will house high-tech "start-ups," as well as established business, non-profit groups and social enterprises through the non-profit Kelonwa Innovation Society. It will also include public space and have a rooftop grassed "park".

Keen said the group behind the proposal, which includes community, civic and academic leaders as well as Okanagan College, UBC Okanagan, the regional economic development commission and  and Accelerate Okanagan, want to tie the building in with the library by connecting the two buildings  on the second floor.

The new building was welcomed by Mayor Walter Gray as one that builds on the growing momentum of recent projects downtown,

As well as infrastructure improvement such as the recently completed revitalization of Bernard Avenue the addition of a new commercial marina and public pier, plans for a new hotel at the foot of Queensway and and improvement to the city's main transit hub beside city hall,  a large office tower to house Interior Health workers is planed across the street from the new innovation centre. Both projects are expected to bring hundreds of workers into the downtown core.

“Building on the momentum of other downtown initiatives, council’s priorities this term included exploring a technology centre to aid in the continuing revitalization of downtown,” said Mayor Walter Gray. “The city supports driving  knowledge economy, innovation and entrepreneurship, which in turn will create high-paying sustainable jobs.”

Proponents of the innovation centre, who are currently seeing funding from the province, hope to start building the new centre by the end of the summer., with completion targets for early 2016.


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