The damage to the SOPA Square building entails falling tiles and debris. (Mackenzie Britton - Capital News)

Debris falling from Kelowna SOPA square causing concern

The city can’t step in because the Pandosy SOPA Square is on private property

The troubled SOPA Square building on Pandosy Street has suffered another setback, with concerns being raised about debris crashing down on the street below.

Kelowna city hall started to receive calls Tuesday about tiles falling off parts of the SOPA building, currently owned by the Aquilini Group, generating safety concerns for drivers, pedestrians and nearby businesses in the Mission shopping district.

“We were informed that tiles were coming off the face of the building, and we contacted the Aquilini Group to tell them what’s expected for the next steps,” said City of Kelowna chief building official Doug Patan.

“The failure of the tile is a cosmetic issue, and it’s up to the Aquilinis to get it fixed. If it was city property, we would take a stronger stance, but its an issue we will make sure the Aquilinis take care of.”

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Businesses in the area noticed the falling debris and certain parts of the sidewalk blocked off with cones and tape.

“I called my landlord concerned when I noticed, they said they’re aware and they’re taking care of it,” said Glenn Smith, general manager of The Canadian Brewhouse & Grill.

Just down the block from the Brewhouse, Tailored Shave barber shop manager Shantel had noticed the blocked off areas, but hadn’t got any update on the situation.

“It’s concerning for the building, and the safety of customers and the community in this area,” Shantel said.

Patan said that the City of Kelowna is keeping an eye on the needed fixes to the SOPA building, and fully expect the repairs to be made.

The building has a long and troubled history.

The Aquilini group and Ernst and Young, entered into an agreement in 2014 that saw the Aquilinis acquire SOPA Square for a price of $29.5 million. At that time only two floors were completed in what was supposed to be a delux building. It soon became clear that it wasn’t what was expected.

SOPA Square was first approved for construction by the city in 2008. It was to have 48 townhouse units and 51 condominiums, as well as 40,000-square-feet of commercial and retail space on the ground level and 14,000-square-feet of office space on the second floor.

The planned mixed-use development once touted as a potential anchor for the South Pandosy commercial area, The original cost was estimated at $70 million.

Troubles for the developer started early on, as there was a lengthy delay in starting work on the project. Then safety concerns about one of the cranes on the site shut down construction work for awhile.

The original developer ran out of money and after sitting idle for a while, the project was revived when a second developer took over.

They later stepped out of the development leading to the most recent series of events.

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