Bulldozers have barely scrapped the surface, but the Okanagan Centre for Innovation in downtown Kelowna sees a bright future ahead.
Jeff Keen is the public voice for the high tech business idea incubator. He said Monday, a unique aspect of the project is the range of interested parties getting involved. In addition to seed funding from the B.C. government, the Innovation Centre is working with local organizations such as both the University of B.C. Okanagan and Okanagan College, the Okanagan Economic Development Commission, local governments as well as social network and venture capital entrepreneurs.
“We’ll leverage everyone’s marketing capabilities,” Keen said, to spread the word and draw the people with the most innovative ideas and energy toward the centre. “It will be driven by a wide range of community partners.
The incubator part of the enterprise will take place primarily on the second floor of the six-storey building, at the corner of Ellis Street and Doyle Avenue in Kelowna, beside the Kelowna Library’s main branch.
That’s where Accelerate Okanagan will be the key tenant.
The building itself will be as high-tech as they come, making sure the requirements of innovators are met.
There will be shared space where ideas can flow, entrepreneurs can meet and the community can get involved with the process and its results.
A presentation space is planned, with retractable walls to accommodate small and large meetings, or open to the artium within.
“We want maximum community engagement,” Keen said, “and maximum community benefit.”
But the heady ebb and flow of exciting new developments will need anchoring.
That’s where the rest of the facility comes into play. Long-term tenants will lease space in the upper four floors, while at street-level there will be retail businesses like coffee shops and such.
While he wouldn’t divulge which tenants had signed-up just yet, Keen said 30 per cent of the space is committed, with another 40 per cent of lease deals pending.
He described the characteristic as being companies with vision dealing in knowledge technologies.
“The idea is to get the community into the building,” Keen said.
Construction of the Innovation Centre his expected to start in the next three weeks, with the completion date set for the fall of 2016.