After months of negotiations, preparations and finalizing details with the City of Kelowna, construction crews are ready to start building the new Okanagan Centre For Innovation.
According to the Kelowna Sustainable Innovation Group, the developer behind the project, the public will be see a “significant” ramp-up of activity on the building site at the corner of Ellis Street and Doyle Avenue in the next few weeks.
The Innovation Centre will be what the builders are calling “a creative, complex marriage of small and large enterprise, academic institutions, civic, regional, provincial and federal governments, and a visionary undertaking for the community.”
“That’s the underpinning for this project: community,” said a KSIG spokesman Kelsey Helm.
One stakeholder who will be particularly pleased to see excavators and loaders start work on the site is the centre’s next-door neighbor, the Okanagan Regional Library.
“A great deal of thought and planning went into the design and location of the centre, including how it could potentially connect to the Library,” said Helm.
According to ORL’s chief executive officer, Stephanie Hall, the library has a lot to offer the business and technology communities, so it advocated itsmain downtown branch to be joined to the new centre.
“KSIG’s vision for the centre was that it would have a cultural element, so it was a great fit,” said Hall.
As part of the library’s original design, two large panels were identified for potential removal from its south-facing wall, conveniently opening up a connection point for the Innovation Centre on the first floor.
Hall said she sees the library’s role as one of support for creativity and innovation in all its forms and she considers the partnership with the Innovation Centre an excellent conduit for tapping into the creative, as well as the technological, sector.
“The OCI will add a critical engine and mixing place for the technology sector,” according to Hall.
“We see the project as having the potential to be hugely beneficial to the local economy, and we want to support that however we can.”
While crews will be preparing the building site for foundation work, Hall and her staff will be reaching out to residents in order to learn how to best fulfill the needs of the library patrons.
The Okanagan Centre for Innovation, is slated to open in the fall of 2016.
It will be a state-of-the-art facility housing everything from two-person start-ups to large technology and innovation girms. Publicly-supported space and services will also be available for early-stage companies, non-profits, community groups, and social enterprises.