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No solutions: UBCO tower causes permanent evacuation of Kelowna businesses

The construction of the new downtown UBCO tower campus has caused damage to neighbouring businesses

Months after several downtown buildings were evacuated as a result of damage caused by the construction of a new UBC Okanagan tower, the City of Kelowna has issued a press release stating that it is working to determine a path forward through the rubble.

Ground settling at the development of the downtown UBCO campus, which will be located at St. Paul Street and Doyle Avenue, was first discovered in the fall, said Lance Kayfish, risk manager for the City of Kelowna.

The new UBCO building will be 43 stories tall and will feature the city’s deepest underground parkade. Digging the deep parkade is what caused ground settling, resulting in cracks forming on the exterior and interior of neighbouring buildings, said Nathan Skolski, university relations for UBCO in a media statement on Nov. 30.

Kayfish said that “the movement seen in this case is more than expected.”

Large cracks are visible on the exterior of the co-working collective on St. Paul Street, called Okanagan coLab. The businesses and people that use the co-working space had to evacuate urgently in November and have not been able to return.

Shane Austin, the founder of coLab told Capital News that the business will never be able to return to its location on St.Paul due to extensive damage.

“This abrupt closure has resulted in substantial revenue losses,” said Austin.

He said that there are approximately 100 members, including himself, who use the coworking space to generate an income.

“We have not been offered any solutions,” said Austin.

As a result of the building damage, many of the people and businesses who used the co-working space have had to pause production while they search for new locations and means of generating revenue.

Some of coLab’s patrons include podcast hosts, not for profit groups, local entrepreneurs, and after school programs.

Austin said that important belongings and equipment are still stuck inside which has impeded progress on some ongoing projects. However, he said that recently he has been working with the building owners to determine a date to retrieve the remaining items.

The future of Okanagan coLab remains unknown and Austin said that he has had no recent communication from UBC Properties. He has been searching for a new building for coLab to move in to, but it has been a difficult process.

Capital News has asked the City of Kelowna for additional comment.

READ MORE: UBCO tower construction: Kelowna businesses fear they are slipping through the cracks

Other businesses in the area, including the Royal Canadian Legion also had to evacuate as a result of structural damage caused by ground settling.

The city said that a recent review determined that Pathways Housing residence, which is also located adjacent to the construction site, is officially safe to be occupied.

Kayfish said that UBCO is working directly with the owners of the impacted properties.

“Preventing further offsite property and infrastructure impacts is the primary objective for all involved. All measures are being taken to prevent further damage.”

The release states that city staff and private consultants are also working to monitor the safety and stability of buildings around the UBC Okanagan tower construction site.

The City of Kelowna said that since initial reports of ground settling and damage were received, it has been working collaboratively with UBC, consultants and neighbouring properties to investigate the claims and “determine the best path forward on the project.”

Kayfish said that the construction team is currently refocusing its efforts elsewhere while surveying is taking place.

According to the city, a recent geotechnical review confirmed week that no new settlement has occurred in the past two weeks.

The release also states that UBCO “remains committed to documenting its learnings from this excavation process and sharing the results with other developers and builders in our community – particularly in the downtown area.”

Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

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