More than 200 people attended the public forum on the Capri Landmark Urban Centre development plan held last November. Photo: Barry Gerding/Black Press

Kelowna commercial landlords face displacement

Future extension of Sutherland Avenue will impact some property owners

A trio of Landmark district property owners are upset that a proposed extension of Sutherland Avenue and parkland designations will displace their commercial buildings.

The three landowners—Lambert and Tom Schmalz with Lambert & Paul Construction Ltd., Tom McNamara with Joseph Takacs Holdings Ltd. and Bob, David and Jane Curell with Sapphire Construction Ltd— and their tenants comprise more than 50 businesses with over 500 employees.

The Sutherland extension is a key part of the $95 million Capri-Landmark Urban Centre plan, now before Kelowna city council awaiting final adoption into the Official Community Plan.

While the focal point of the new urban zone is the Capri Centre redevelopment project, the Sutherland extension is meant to address the transportation pressure resulting from business growth and increased population densification projected for the area by city planners.

The long-term development has a targeted build-out by 2040 or possibly longer depending on economic trends over the next 20 years.

Related: Urban plan presented to Kelowna council

City planning staff are to meet with the Sutherland property owners on Wednesday, but that meeting has been preceded by a letter to the city from the three landowners, accusing the city of a lack of both direct communication on how the Sutherland extension will impact them and consideration for other transportation options besides the road widening.

“The reality is for $95 million, the city will get land set aside for a small park and redevelopment of Sutherland for about three-quarters of a mile,” said Sapphire Construction’s David Curell in an interview with the Kelowna Capital News.

Sapphire owns two-storey office/retail building at 1511 Sutherland Ave.

“I would think other areas in the city need that $95 million before our area does.”

In another letter sent to the city in May by Sapphire Construction, the company took issue with the Landmark Towers, built by Al Stober Construction, being built without providing adequate transportation structure, which now has placed the long-term existence of their commercial enterprises in jeopardy.

“Since year 2000, (Al Stober Construction) related development companies are directly responsible for 86 per cent of the new construction and subsequent increase of the Landmark auto traffic. The circumstances are further slanted towards ASC as it has additional development(s) planned for the immediate area. The unfairness is patent,” said the letter.

Curell said there are other potential options for transportation challenges that wouldn’t see their commercial enterprises sacrificed, such as planning for light rail transit service, expanded existing transit and vehicle-alternative transportation measures or staggered work hours for Landmark Tower tenants.

“But it seems the city wants to go this route,” he said of widening Sutherland Avenue.

Related: Implementation strategy for urban plan debated

He suggests it will displace 116,000 sq.ft. of affordable commercial retail space and those tenants forced to relocate, the result being an estimated 1,900 cumulative customers of the displaced tenants creating additional traffic congestion elsewhere, having to drive further north along Highway 97 to wherever those premises are moved.

“It has been found that building new and bigger roads is not the solution to the traffic congestion problems of the past, yet this is exactly what the city plan is now for this urban centre,” he said.

McNamara, in his own letter sent to city staff earlier this month, said he was amazed the city could redesignate tax producing commercial properties into a park, a move that affects properties he owns on the south side of Dolphin.

“It is not cost effective, or necessary, other than to increase the aesthetic value of the Landmark Towers, which in turn would increase the real value of properties in the area not designated as future park,” he stated.

“At no time were we contacted in regards to the OCP that directly involved our property. By the stroke of a pen you have devalued our holdings, and made them virtually unsalable to any potential purchaser other than the city.”

McNamara said they have 10 commercial tenants, which he described as “mom and pop” type businesses that employ about 40 people.

“Most of them could not afford, or survive a relocation, as their client base would not move with them. With the exception of two tenants, both in their second year, all are long term tenants, with one being with us for over 30 years.”

Ross Soward, City of Kelowna planning specialist, said the Sutherland extension has a likely construction window sometime between the next five and 10 years.

Soward said some properties will be impacted by the long-term urban zone vision, but the changes are recommended to accommodated future growth for the area, which he said will be critical to the city’s overall population growth management plan.

He said an extensive public consultation process on the Capri Landmark Urban Centre began last year and that process is continuing as council has not yet given final endorsation of the proposal.

“We had nearly 250 people out to one open house last November to get public feedback. We are following a process and the meeting with landowners next Wednesday is part of that process,” Soward said.

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