Kelowna city councillors don’t like it but developers of the Central Green residential development project at Richter Street and Harvey Avenue say soil conditions prevent them from building as high as originally planned.
And that, in part, prompted council to defer approval Monday of a development permit for the latest building proposed for the site.
At council’s regular weekly meeting, Bob Daigenais of Al Stober Construction said the soil conditions on the site make it too expensive to prepare the property for a 12-storey building.
“Just because you want a tower doesn’t mean you can build a tower,” he told council.
When council approved the original plan for developing the former home to Kelowna Senior Secondary into a multi-building, mixed-use residential community, the plan called for 12-storey buildings along the Harvey Avenue frontage of the property. But they were dropped from the plan early on. Lower buildings were envisioned for farther back on the site and a large new park on the south side of the site.
But so far, all of the buildings have been five storeys tall.
“We’re not going to see the kind of height we wanted to see on that site,” said Coun. Gail Given, who noted there was extensive public consultation prior the original plan being approved and the public also wanted to see high density, mixed-use residential buildings of varying heights.
As for mixed-use, that too now appears to be smaller in scope than originally planned. Daigenais said because of the few designated access points and a lack of space for a loading zone, businesses like grocery stores are not likely to locate there and a bank will not place a branch on the site because there cannot be a drive-through. He said the businesses that will be located onsite will likely be small operations like coffees shop, bakeries and a hair stylists.
He added the project has been planned to be oriented toward pedestrians, not vehicles.
For that reason, a building originally planned for the corner of Richter and Harvey has been replaced with a public plaza.
Despite the lack of high rises, the developers say they will still achieve the city-set target of 500 residential units on the site—in both strata and rental buildings.
But the way the development has evolved had several councillors grumbling Monday.
“I’m really disappointed with where Central Green has gone,” said Coun. Charlie Hodge.
At the meeting, council voted to defer approval for the latest building proposed for site, a five-storey rental building that would front Richter Street.
The building was described by Coun. Brad Seiben as “utilitarian” in appearance. Coun. Tracey Gray said she felt it looked like many others in the city.
“When someone drives past this development, I want them to go ‘wow’,” said Coun. Mohini Singh. But she said, that is not likely to happen given the look of the buildings being built on the site.
Given said it appears the city’s hope of an “iconic” development for the high-profile site have been dashed.
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