Survey says new Kelowna Visitor Centre plans winning over community

"Out of the 320 who attended we had 175 surveys completed and our initial opinion was that this was overwhelming positive."

Hundreds of Kelowna residents went to an open house to learn more about re-designed Visitor Centre plans, and the majority were impressed by what they saw,.

“It was great turnout and we had a lot of local residents asking a lot of really good questions,” said Daniel Bibby, chairperson of the Tourism Kelowna board.

“Out of the 320 who attended we had 175 surveys completed and our initial opinion was that this was overwhelming positive.”

Bibby said it’s too early to have specific results from the survey, but what he was able to glean through talking to attendees was there were a lot of misconceptions about the project.

“Any time you are developing downtown or by the water there will be concerns raised and questions brought up,” said Bibby. “They were raised with the right intentions … what we needed to do is make the adjustments.”

Significant adjustments have been made and the building — composed largely of glass and wood — is now 40 per cent smaller than originally proposed.

This is because Tourism Kelowna staff won’t be on site and will instead rent space at the Prestige Building, which is a block away from the Queensway location.

The new building will also avoid the Simpson Covenant.

In the 1940s Stanley Simpson sold several acres of prime land to the City of Kelowna at a reduced price, with a series of conditions that were upheld in a 2008 court challenge. The deal stipulates that the properties on that land only to be used for municipal purposes, not commercial or industrial ones.

The new building plan backs into the Simpson land, but doesn’t encroach on it.

The new Visitor Centre is expected to connect Kerry and Stuart Park  and offer a  15 metre space between it and the water.

By comparison, the Kelowna Yacht Club is only seven metres back from the water’s edge.

Nancy Cameron, Tourism Kelowna CEO, said an estimated 100,000 people will walk through the Visitor Centre annually, compared to the 20,000 that go to the highway centre —three years ago that centre had 55,000 visitors annually. That has to do with changes in the way people travel.

The construction costs of the visitor centre will also drop from $3.5 million to $2.8 million, all of which will be paid by Tourism Kelowna, which will also pay to lease the land from the city.