Credit: Carli Berry/Capital News

Old RCMP building attracting interest

Doyle Avenue site should be sold off for mixed-use residential/commercial development…

With the Kelowna RCMP now in the city’s new police services building on Clement Avenue in the downtown North End, attention is turning to the future of the former detachment building on Doyle Avenue.

According to the city’s Civic Precinct Plan, the Doyle Avenue site should be sold off for mixed-use residential/commercial development, which could see a residential tower of up to 15 storeys on the site, as well as room to expand the existing Art Walk, that now runs between the Rotary Centre for the Arts and the Library Parkade, out to Doyle Avenue.

The plan also calls for a civic plaza where the Art Walk now ends at Smith Avenue.

But the plan is not sitting well with everyone.

Kelowna resident Arlene Huxtable, in a letter to the Capital News, says the city would be better off using the former RCMP site for expansion of the aging Kelowna Community Theatre (KCT) next door, rather than selling it off for private development.

“I would hope the residents of Kelowna would be as disgusted as I am about the city wanting to put a mixed residential and commercial building in place of the old police station,” writes Huxtable, a retired teacher.

“They want revenue. They don’t care about culture in Kelowna even though that block is designated for cultural activities.”

She accused city council of letting its residents down.

But city spokesman Tom Wilson said the Civic Precinct Plan does call for a new, larger performing arts centre to replace the KCT on the exiting site of the theatre.

The proposed 65,000-square-foot facility, with a 1,200-seat theatre as well as other performance space, would use additional vacant land at the north end of the existing building. That land is now a large grassed lot.

The plan states, because of its age, the KCT will likely need to be replaced within the next 10 years. But it won’t be cheap. The plan estimates the cost to replace the KCT at $54.5 million.

Huxtable said the city needs a larger state-of-the-art performance centre, one capable of hosting larger performances than the existing 900-seat KCT.

In her letter, she says the Community Trust (formerly known as the Simpson Covenant), which governs future use of some downtown lands, wanted the RCMP building site used for civic or cultural functions. But the RCMP site is not in the trust according to the city.

Wilson said the trust lands are on the south side of Doyle Avenue and include Kelowna City Hall and its parking lot, Stuart Park, Memorial Arena, the new parkade located beside the arena and the Kelowna Museum at Ellis and Queensway.

The Community Trust, dates back to the 1940s and stipulates lands in the trust, which the city received from local businessman Stanley Simpson, could only be used for community purposes and could not have any commercial components.

According to the Civic Precinct Plan, part of the reason why the city wants to see the KCT replaced where it is, is because it would allow for commercial components such as facility rentals, a restaurant and other amenities the city feels are needed in a modern performing arts centre.

The Civic Precinct Plan calls for the demolition of the former RCMP detachment either later this year or in 2018.

Money acquired through the sale of the former detachment site would be used to pay for public amenities in the area covered by the plan.