B.C. money for new Kelowna visitor centre

Province kicking in $500,000 for controversial new downtown lakeshore building.

Kelowna’s controversial new lakeshore tourism centre is getting a financial helping hand from the province.

Tourism Kelowna says it has secured a $500,000 grant from the provincial government which it will use to help pay for the $2.8 million visitor centre. The grant was contingent on a development permit being issued by the City of Kelowna. That permit was granted earlier this week.

“The provincial government offered the grant as part of its year-end grant process in March,” said Tourism Kelowna chairman Daniel Bibby.

“Even though we received the cheque in April, our board decided we should wait until final council approval and wait until the development permit was official before we announced it. Had council denied the development permit, the money would have been returned.”

The planned new centre, to be built at the foot of Queensway, has generated opposition by people who say it should not be built on the downtown lakeshore and the city-owned property—a parking lot for many years—should instead be used as parkland.

A lengthy and packed public hearing on the project earlier this year drew an equal number of opponents and supporters. However, the city said when it came to correspondence received about the proposal, most was from opponents.

Bibby said Tourism Kelowna didn’t want to prejudge the outcome by announcing the grant earlier in the year before council considered the development permit.

“It would have been inappropriate at that time to presume council would approve the project. There was still work being done drawing up final plans with our architects and council could have voted the project down,” he said.

Tourism Kelowna has a mortgage secured for the building project and it has been seeking a federal grant for the centre as well as private sector sponsors.

“We were hoping to be able to announce the source of all the funding today (Wednesday) but negotiations continue with various parties,” said Bibby. “Our objective is to break ground this fall and open the new visitor centre by next September.”

The provincial grant was approved as part of a regular process of government which issues grants as the year end draws to a close at the end of March.

“We wish to thank our local MLA’s who support this project and helped us secure this important funding,” added Bibby.