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

Many businesses in downtown Kelowna have been evacuated for more than 1 month
CoLab in downtown Kelowna has been evacuated for more than one month due to damage caused by the UBCO campus construction taking place across the street. (Jacqueline Gelineau/Capital News)

Several businesses in downtown Kelowna have no home for the holidays as a result of damage stemming from construction on the new UBC Okanagan campus.

For the past month, businesses including the co-working collective called CoLab and the Royal Canadian Legion have been evacuated due to instability and damage caused by construction on the new UBCO building, which will be erected at the intersection of St. Paul Street and Doyle Avenue.

The new 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.

READ MORE: New UBCO campus construction causes damage, evacuation of Kelowna building

Capital News has reached out to UBCO and the City of Kelowna for an updated comment on the construction project and ensuing damage but has not yet received a reply. This article will be updated as more information becomes available.

The first signs of damage appeared at the end of August and three months later, CoLab was evacuated due to safety concerns at the end of November.

Now, large cracks exposing the interior of the CoLab building are visible from the street.

While some people were able to retrieve their belongings, including files and equipment, others were unable to remove everything and important items have been left behind.

“I have $20,000 worth of equipment stuck in the building,” said Dustyn Baulkham, the founder of Rebellious Unicorns.

Baulkham uses the co-working space to record his podcasts Queerprenures, Denhta, and weekly bingo and trivia with Kelowna Drag Queen Ella Lamoureux.

While temporarily being without the thousands of dollars worth of equipment is a significant inconvenience, Baulkham said that he worries that his belongings are being damaged the longer they sit in the empty building. The building’s heat and ventilation systems have been disabled due to the damage and now cracks in the walls and ceiling have exposed the interior of CoLab to the elements.

Baulkham explained that in addition to the material loss, he has also lost significant amounts of time and productivity.

He explained that now while without a permanent location, much of his time is spent searching for new sites where he can record and work on projects. Every time he has to record he has to completely set up and take down all of the equipment.

“A number of us really relied on this space to run our businesses… For some people this is a minor irritation, for others this is a huge issue,” said Baulkham.

There are approximately 500 members who operate out of the CoLab.

Shane Austin, the co-founder of CoLab said that many people earned an income directly out of the co-working space. Now, while displaced, some businesses have suffered a significant loss of revenue.

CoLab is actively searching for a new location to call home.

The Royal Canadian Legion has also been evacuated and a fence has been put up around the premises due to safety concerns.

Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

I'm a reporter in the beginning stages of my career. I joined the team at Capital News in November 2021...
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