Future vision for Kelowna’s Civic Block area endorsed by council

Downtown area to the north of City Hall could see several mixed use commercial/residential developments, say city staff.

Kelowna’s new plan for the possible future development of what it calls its Civic Block—an area of downtown bordered by Queensway, Clement, Ellis and Okanagan Lake—says the land currently housing the soon-to-be replaced RCMP detachment should be redeveloped with mixed use housing in a building as tall as 13 storeys high.

The recommendation is just one of a series in the proposed future land-use vision endorsed by city council Monday.

In addition to redeveloping the RCMP detachment site—being replaced by a larger, new police services building on Clement Avenue in the city’s North End—other projects envisioned in the short-term (five to 10 years) include:

• Extending the existing Art Walk that runs between Cawston Avenue and the Library Parkade  all the way to Queensway.

• Creating a civic Plaza on the walkway at the end of Smith Avenue.

• Refreshing the Bennett Clock Memorial on Queensway.

• Enhancing pedestrian and cycle access throughout the area.

Longer term  possibilities (10-25 years) include:

• A new performing arts centre to replace the existing Kelonwa Community Theatre.

• Multi-storey mixed-use development on parts of the  Prospera Place parking lot.

• Redevelopment of the Memorial Arena for community use, possibly as the new home for the Kelowna Heritage Museum.

• Redevelopment of the existing museum site at Ellis and Queensway.

• Mixed-use development on the site of the existing health unit on Ellis Street.

• Infill development on Cawston Avenue.

• A new civic building on the the existing city hall parking lot.

The plan envisions up to 230 affordable housing units, 550 other housing units, an additional 75,000-square feet of commercial space  and another 5.5 hectares of land for future civic use.

It would also give new mixed-use developments in the area a break on parking requirements. However, no new parkades would be built in the area, which already has the soon-to-be expanded library parkade and the new parkade beside Memorial Arena that is currently under construction.

For the most part, council members liked what they saw in the plan. Council voted to endorse it 5-2, with Couns. Brad Sieben and Charlie Hodge voting against. Couns. Tracy Gray and Gail Given were not at the meeting.

Sieben said he felt the plans to redevelop the RCMP site were being rushed, while Hodge, saying he had only had time to skim the plan, wanted more time to thoroughly read the 200-page document and talk to members of the public about it. His request for a week’s delay to endorse the plan was not supported.

Coun. Luke Stack said nothing in the plan should come as a surprise as everything in it had already been presented to council at various times over the last few months.

The plan, months in the making and subject of several public open houses and numerous meetings, is an attempt by the city to indicate how it would like to the see the area develop and how it can be better connected to the rest of the downtown core.

Both staff and politicians have made it clear, however, realizing the vision will take partnership with developers as the city is not in the business of constructing buildings.

Mayor Colin Basran seized on one of the plan’s findings, that there is only a small number of residents living in the area, something he said needs to change.

He said without it, the area will simply be filled with commercial and office buildings that only bring life to the area during business hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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