Kelowna city council changes Central Green plan

Potential for residential towers pulled back from Harvey Avenue frontage and placed in the middle of the site.

Kelowna city council has signed off on the new master plan for the Central Green development.

Kelowna city council has changed the development plan for Central Green.

But while city staff described the change as “minor,” one city councillor begged to differ.

Coun. Charlie Hodge said moving three planned residential tower that could have stood anywhere from three to 20 storeys high back from the property line along Harvey Avenue to the middle of the site where green space was originally envisioned, was a major change.

But he found no support amongst his fellow councillors, who all enthused about the new plan, saying it kept the spirit of what the city and the public wanted for the site in terms of development, alive.

“I think this is a great plan and I wish the developers well,” said Hodge at a public hearing on the new proposal Tuesday night. “But I will not be voting for it because it’s not what the pubic wanted.”

He said extensive public input went into the original concept for development of Central Green and while economics have obviously changed that from the developers point of view, the change amounted to far more than the “minor” change city staff described.

But Hodge was alone in that opinion.

Mayor Colin Basran and seven of his councillors, all chimed in to praise the plan and say how Central Green will be a showpiece development in the city. While the city already has LEED-certified buildings, Central Green is slated to be Kelonwa’ first LEED-certified neighbourhood.

The high-profile site at the corner of Harvey Avenue and Richter Street, once home to Kelowna Secondary School, is slated to be developed with a mix of residential, affordable and support housing, as well as commercial space and park land.

The majority of the property was bought by local developer Al Stober Construction Ltd. in 2014. Stober is now partnering with the another local developer, The MissionGroup, in developing the site. There are also two supportive housing projects on the property but they are separate sites from the land Stober and the The Mission Group will build on.

The city bought the land from the school district in 2003 and tried, unsuccessfully, for years to have it developed.

The new plan calls for a low-rise, four-story residential building along the Harvey Avenue frontage of the the property and an eight-storey office/commercial tower, that will include a bank, at the corner of Harvey and Richter.

Behind  those two buildings will be two residential towers that could stand anywhere from four to 20 storeys high.

While the exact heights have yet to be decided by the developer, one councillor, Ryan Donn, urged the developer to “built they as tall as possible.”

A commercial open-air public plaza will be built directly behind the eight-storey office/commercial tower, while the remainder of the site will conform the original plan. That called for  three large, four-storey condominium buildings around what will become the new Rowcliffe Park on the sourthern third of the property. A tree-lined walkway linking the residential area to the park will cut through the centre of the property.

An internal road—meant for deliveries, drop-offs and access to the Stober buildings, will be built between the towers and buildings facing Harvey Avenue. All parking, with the exception of a few short-term spaces along the internal road will be accommodated in an large underground parkade.

While work could start of the first buildings as soon as next year,  the total build-out of the site could take as long as 10 to 15 years, said Luke Turri of the Mission Group, who acted as spokesman for the developers at the public hearing.

Stober will build the Harvey Avenue buildings and the towers, while the Mission Group will build four-storey condominium buildings around the park.

“I’m very pleased to see this come forward,” said Coun. Luke Stack, who along with Hodge are the only two current councillors who were on council in 2010 when plans for Central Green were first proposed. “I have no problem with it.”

Stack, like several of his council colleagues, said he thought he new plan captured the spirit of the initial vision for Central Green. Coun. Brad Seiben said the “enthusiastically” supported the new plan.

Coun. Gail Given said she was relieved that there will not be a “wall of buildings” along Harvey Avenue.

But Hodge wasn’t persuaded.

“I like the plan – it’s a great plan but it’s not the plan the public wanted,” he said.

Hodge told council he felt he owed it to the people who put so much work and energy into the original concept to say no.

“This is not what was agreed to.”

But in the end, the new plan was approved by a eight to one vote.

No members of the public spoke at the public hearing.